Oklahoma legislators return to the State Capitol Monday as Gov. Kevin Stitt expects a state revenue failure of nearly $416 million for the rest of the year because of what the coronavirus pandemic has done to the world.
He announced Friday the economic failure also was caused by massive depressed oil and natural gas prices.
“This revenue failure is not unexpected,” Stitt said in a news release. “Times like these further reinforce how critically important it was for our House and Senate leadership to work with me to save an additional $200 million during last year’s budget surplus.”
It means Representatives and Senators will be at the capitol as the state Board of Equalization holds a virtual meeting to take the steps so legislators can tap into the state’s Rainy Day Fund. The fund holds about $806 million but there is also more than $1 billion in total savings.
The release from the governor indicated a revenue failure would normally require a 6.2% cut in the budgets of all state agencies. But the legislators might have access to nearly $500 million in Rainy Day funding.
Those funds should limit cuts to state agencies as demand for services spikes. The Legislature will be meeting next week to discuss the budget.
Legislative leaders say they will meet under “strong health and safety protocols” due to the COVID-19 viris.
“The Legislature will complete important business next week while putting safety at the forefront of all activities at the Capitol,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. “Extraordinary precautions will be taken to ensure health and safety within the Capitol during these necessary proceedings. We are going to stabilize the budget so services can continue uninterrupted and affirm the governor’s health emergency declaration to step up Oklahoma’s battle against COVID-19. The Legislature’s time to act is here, and we are prepared to do so in a safe manner that is compliant with current health guidelines.”
The House will convene at 8 a.m. Monday under the following revised protocols necessary to protect against COVID-19 while in session.
WHO WILL BE AT THE CAPITOL
- Capitol access remains restricted to elected officials, essential Capitol staff, the press, state officials invited for critical meetings and construction personnel.
- Most House staff will continue to work remotely; only essential staff will be at the Capitol.
- No gatherings of more than 10 will be allowed in any House room at any time.
- House members and staff will not be allowed into the Capitol if they:
- Have COVID-19 or its symptoms
- Live with someone who has COVID-19 or its symptoms
- Are immunocompromised or otherwise at risk
- Live with someone who is immunocompromised or otherwise at risk
- Before entering the Capitol, House members and staff will have their temperature taken. No one with a temperature above 100.4F will be admitted.
- House members unable to enter the Capitol for these reasons or others can vote remotely via a proxy under House Rule Fifteen.
HOW HOUSE PROCEEDINGS WILL WORK
- Skeleton crews of less than ten people will run floor and committee proceedings.
- Members and staff must listen to proceedings in their offices.
- Members will be brought into floor and committee proceedings individually or in small groups to vote, ask questions, debate and present legislation in order to comply with orders limiting gatherings of ten or more.
- Press will be permitted in the enclosed press gallery above the House Chamber, and will be required to maintain social distancing within the gallery.
- The House Chamber public gallery will be closed.
- Livestreaming video online of floor and committee proceedings will continue.
The Legislature has not been in the Capitol since March 17, when a staffer tested positive. Since then, the Legislature and its staff has worked remotely and the Capitol has received a deep cleaning.
Source: OK House