By Patrick B. McGuigan
Three hours after his election as President Pro Tem of the Oklahoma Senate, Brian Bingman, a Sapulpa Republican, told reporters he believes the gap between tax revenues and planned government spending is large. Some hopeful estimates project the gap might be as low as $225 million, but Bingman leans more toward a figure of $600 million. Specifically, he anticipates $6.2 billion in revenue, versus spending of $6.8 billion in the current budget.
Bingman said, “So, the question is, how to deal with it?” Translating the budget shortfall into percentage terms, he said “that looks like 9 to 10 percent.” Saying he is not a fan of across-the-board cuts, he believes legislators must prioritize and protect some agencies more than others.
Bingman said he anticipates challenging hearings focused on spending, and that he hopes some agencies will arrive at anticipated budget discussions with possible spending reductions already in mind. Further, he noted, “the tax credit moratorium will end in Fiscal Year 2013,” meaning further budget cuts can be anticipated.
Although his leadership’s Senate rules were adopted without revision, some criticisms were expressed today by members of the minority (Democratic) caucus. Bingman said despite that, he anticipates a fruitful relationship across the aisle, noting he had incorporated committee assignments from Senate Minority Leader Andrew Rice.
The President Pro Tem said he shares stated desires from legislative leaders to avoid “last-minute surprises” in the process of lawmaking, specifically pointing to the last two days of the upcoming legislative session when, he anticipates, “the things we work on will have gone through the 24-hour rule.”
Bingman repeated his support for a new round of workers compensation and lawsuit reforms.
He responded cautiously to questions about further changes in state laws touching illegal immigration, noting the state took a leading role in immigration policy two years ago, with passage of House Bill 1804.
Reporters asked Bingman about his oft-repeated concerns over public pensions. He considers the projected $16 Billion shortfall in public pensions “nightmarish.”
When CapitolBeatOK asked if any state was “getting it right” on pension reform, Bingman said he was encouraged at some of the dramatic reforms being discussed now in the state of New York.
Bingman concluded his session with reporters late this afternoon by reflecting, “If we perceive or know of a problem, we are going to have to address it. We need to be bold and look at the tough issues now.”
After his formal election at mid-day, Bingman’s staff issued his prepared statement adapted from his remarks after winning the top job in the upper chamber. He said, “I am honored to be given the opportunity to serve Oklahoma in this capacity as Pro Tem of the State Senate. Receiving unified support means a lot and I appreciate the task ahead as we all work together to improve Oklahoma.”
Bingman said his priority is jobs creation and economic opportunity. He asserted: “I am optimistic for Oklahoma. Recently we have seen announcements that Boeing is moving 550 jobs to Oklahoma City and Baker Hughes over 600 to their northeast Oklahoma facilities, all evidence that we are gaining momentum in Oklahoma and that efforts to make our state more business friendly are paying off.
“I challenge the Senate, the new Governor and our colleagues in the House to be bold and move Oklahoma. We must courageously confront our most pressing challenges and leave this state better for our kids and grandkids.”
His statement continued, “We must always remember who we work for and as Oklahoma families and businesses cut back; we cut back. Unlike the federal government, we will be responsible with your tax dollars and keep our spending down to affordable levels, focusing on priorities.”