Fallin wants special session to fill health agencies’ funding gap

by Dale Denwalt  Published: August 16, 2017 1:46 PM CDT

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday said she wants a special session to fill a $215 million shortfall in several agencies’ budgets, but she now has to wait for lawmakers to strike a deal.

Four agencies lost that expected cash after the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a cigarette fee this month, the Departments of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Human Services, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the commission that enforces alcohol and tobacco laws. Without some kind of re-appropriation, the agencies will have to restructure their budgets.

“A special session is the best option,” Fallin said. “Failure to meet in special session would mean $215 million would be cut mostly from these three state agencies. These agencies and the people they serve cannot sustain the kind of cuts that will occur if we do not find a solution.”

Fallin also warned lawmakers that the executive branch can’t make up the money with existing state funds.

“No money can be spent from any state fund unless the Legislature specifically appropriates it,” said Fallin. “Let’s be clear. The director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services does not have the authority to transfer monies to the affected agencies from different sources without legislation directing him to do so.”

Without legislative intervention, the state’s mental health agency said it would run out of state appropriations in November. OHCA, which administers Medicaid, said it would run out of state funds in January and DHS said it would out of state funds in May.

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