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The second regular session of the 55th Oklahoma Legislature began Monday, Feb. 1, amid a state budget shortfall of at least $900 million. Barely one week into session, on Feb. 8, state finance secretary Preston Doerflinger put state agencies on alert that budget cuts would be deeper than the 3 percent reduction that went into effect in January. What these cuts could mean for the agencies responsible for protecting our state’s natural resources has yet to be seen.
In her State of the State address, Governor Fallin told lawmakers that state agencies could face budget reductions up to 13.5 percent unless actions were taken to balance the budget. The executive budget proposed by the governor includes securing an additional $910.5 million in recurring revenue from an overhaul of sales tax and related exemptions, a cigarette tax increase, removing the personal income tax double deduction and eliminating pass-through appropriations, among other budget reforms.
In recent articles, State Impact Oklahoma has explored what additional budget reductions could mean for the quality of the state’s water supply. The Department of Environmental Quality’s programs designed to regulate local drinking water and wastewater operations are primarily funded through legislative appropriations that have declined by nearly 30 percent since 2009. In addition, water monitoring programs through the Oklahoma Water Resources Board that are vital to keeping tabs on the state’s water inventory could also be on the chopping block.
On top of budget concerns, a number of legislative measures have been introduced that could potentially impact conservation of our state’s natural resources related to water regulation, protection of our state parks and management of fish and wildlife. For a complete list of current legislation the Conservation Coalition of Oklahoma is tracking, click here. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.