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Lawmakers hope for budget deal soon

Lawmakers hope for budget deal soon


Budget After delays getting started, GOP-led Legislature isn’t surprised when governor rejects spending proposal

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT
Published: May 6, 2009

Gov. Brad Henry on Tuesday rejected a legislative budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year and offered a counter-proposal to the Republican-led House and Senate.

"There are significant differences,” said state Treasurer Scott Meacham, chief budget negotiator for the governor.

Rep. Ken Miller, House Appropriations and Budget Committee chairman, said the move was expected and shouldn’t halt lawmakers’ plans to adjourn in less than three weeks.

"We’ll just continue to work with them in good faith toward ironing out our differences,” said Miler, R-Edmond. "I’m still optimistic that we’re on the right track.”

Legislative leaders would like to get a budget agreement reached by the end of this week, but still would have enough time to run the necessary budget bills through the House and Senate if an agreement can be reached by early next week, Miller said.

"There are some differences in the proposals and differences on some spending priorities,” he said. "But I don’t think it’s anything we can’t work out.”

Meacham and Miller did not release dollar amounts or divulge details because those working on the budget decided to keep numbers secret until an agreement is reached.

Miller, however, said the budget for the 2010 fiscal year, which starts July 1, could be $500 million to $600 million lower than this fiscal year’s budget of about $7.1 billion.

Meacham said it would be "pretty tough” for legislators to get a budget approved by May 22 if an agreement isn’t reached by the end of this week.

"If we end up with some sort of impasse, it’s going to be impossible,” he said.

This year’s legislative session is to end May 29, but legislative leaders hope to wrap up their work a week early.

Work on the budget was delayed a bit as legislative leaders and state agency heads tried to figure out how more than $2.6 billion of federal economic stimulus funds could be used to offset state revenue shortfalls caused mostly by lower energy prices.

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