Carl’s Capitol Comment

By the time you read this, the first session of the 58th Legislature will be underway. The governor starts the session each year with the State of the State address. This outlines the governor’s priorities and budget for the coming year.

While it’s certainly important to hear from the executive branch, it’s important to remember the governor and his cabinet is just one leg of government. It is up to the Legislature to actually pass laws and determine each year how state revenue will be appropriated to various state agencies through the state budget. Passing a balanced state budget is our main constitutional duty each year.

We got our first estimate of state revenues in December from the state Board of Equalization. They estimated we would have about $8.4 billion to appropriate for Fiscal Year 2022, which starts in July. The board will meet again later in February to certify actual revenue figures. One of the things that could drastically impact those figures is President Biden’s recent order to suspend all new oil and gas leasing and drilling permits for U.S. lands and waters for the next 60 days. This already is affecting jobs here in the state and the nation. I know I’m preaching to the choir, but I do not understand this order. I can tell you that countries in the Middle East, and others such as Iran, Russia and China will not be halting drilling and leasing.

Oklahoma is still heavily reliant on oil and gas, and this will hurt us.

Even with the early revenue estimates, which looked good, we were still likely facing a bit of a budget gap for the next fiscal year. That is because last year we had to make use of some one-time funding that will not be available for the next year, and we borrowed from some funds that will have to be paid back. Now, with this halt on new drilling and leasing permits in our state’s largest industry. We will have a better budget picture once the Board of Equalization meets later this month.

On a separate note, if you are planning to visit the state Capitol this year, please be advised that visitor space in the House gallery will be limited because of the pandemic. Currently we have many seats blocked off to ensure social distancing. Visitors were not even allowed in the gallery for the State of the State address. That was very odd. I’ll be glad when we can put this pandemic behind us and move more freely again.

In the meantime, if I can help you with anything, you can always reach out to me by email at carl.newton@okhouse.gov, or phone me at 405-557-7339.  May God Bless you and the State of Oklahoma.

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