Richard Morrissette and Leslie Osborn spar over pending Oklahoma state budget

OKLAHOMA CITY – The state-government budget is being developed behind closed doors by the political party that “talks about transparency,” and most citizens of Oklahoma will be the losers when the final product is unveiled, veteran legislator Richard Morrissette contends. However, his weekly rhetorical partner on News9’s “Your Vote Counts,” Leslie Osborn, countered his contentions.

The budget dominated the latest edition of the weekly encounter, which was broadcast Sunday (May 10). “This is decision week” at the State Capitol, moderator Scott Mitchell said.

“I expect a budget deal” to be presented to the 72-member House Republican Caucus “by the end of the week,” said Rep. Osborn, R-Mustang.

GOP legislative leaders are “bringing in agency heads and telling them what to expect” from this year’s budget negotiations between the House of Representatives and the Senate, she said. 

Because of a $611 million shortfall, most agencies will experience “between a 2 percent to 6-or-7 percent cut” in their appropriation, predicted Osborn, a member of the House Committee on Appropriations and Budget.

Last year, when the Republican-dominated Legislature was confronted with a $188 million budget hole, 52 state agencies received lower appropriations (most experienced budget reductions of 5.5%) and the Legislature siphoned $291 million from 29 agency savings accounts.

Republicans now om control of Oklahoma are “an irresponsible group of people” who are “starving this government to death,” Rep. Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, asserted. Morrissette is serving his sixth and final two-year term in the state Legislature.

Common education probably will receive a flat appropriation this year but no reduction, Osborn said, “and we’re working desperately” to cut down on the “over-testing” of students, “their end-of-instruction exams.”

Most Oklahoma citizens “are going to get it right in the head” in the Fiscal Year 2015-16 state budget, said Morrissette. 

That will include “the average working person, single mothers, military veterans, senior citizens, higher education and school students.”

Osborn said all 149 state legislators have had “input” to the budget process, but Morrissette maintained that fewer than a handful of people are actually preparing the $6.6 billion budget: Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations and Budget, and Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, chairman of the Senate’s Appropriations Committee.

The State of Oklahoma, like families and small businesses, has to tighten its belt when income declines, Osborn said. 

State agencies will have to “cut down on travel and get rid of things they don’t have to do,” she said.

If the State of Oklahoma were a family or a business, said Morrissette, an attorney, “We would be in Chapter 7 insolvency.”

Governor Mary Fallin “has abdicated her authority to her staff,” Morrissette asserted. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, “has abdicated his budget authority to Senator Jolley,” and House Speaker Jeffrey Hickman, R-Fairview, “has abdicated his to Representative Sears.” Further, Morrissette declared, Jolley “is driving the train.”

The governor is “obsessed with two things: big business and the Tea Party,” Morrissette charged. “She gives away millions of dollars in tax credits and Quality Jobs credits to people who don’t deserve them, and she’s obsessed about guns, guns, guns. But she did sign a switchblade bill the other day [House Bill 1911].”

“Your Vote Counts” is a 10-minute program which features a point-counterpoint format and airs Sunday mornings on KWTV-9 in Oklahoma City.

Afterward each week’s broadcast, the show is uploaded to the Internet at .  

NOTE: This report is adapted from a House Media Staff release.