OKLAHOMA CITY — Lawmakers have called a special session to give themselves additional time to finalize a state budget.
State law had required lawmakers to adjourn by May 26, but the concurrent special session, which begins Wednesday, gives them extra flexibility — if necessary — to reach that budget agreement.
Lawmakers have spent much of session laser-focused on voucher-like school tax credits for private and homeschool families and arguing over how much more to invest in public schools. Lawmakers from both parties have said those disputes stalled overall budget conversations amid a $1.2 billion surplus.
Republicans on Monday announced they had reached a historic one-time $785 million agreement to increase investment in public schools. That deal includes $3,000 to $6,000 teacher pay raises; increased investments in a fund that benefits schools that have low or no property values; school safety initiatives, and reading specialist programs. The passage of the public school education package, which represents a $625 million recurring investment in public schools, will also unlock the tiered tax credit.
During the special session, lawmakers can only appropriate funds for budget years 2023 and 2024, pass legislation related to the budget and spend federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.
House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, said Tuesday the special session is wasteful.
"Today's call for a Special Session to extend time to work on the state budget is wasteful and fiscally irresponsible," she said in an emailed statement. "We've had four months to address the state budget, and with plenty of money to do it. The call made by the supermajority demonstrates the continued dysfunction in state government. Oklahomans are relying on us to fund critical services that are vital to their quality of life.
"Instead, Republican leaders have been focused on closed door deals to fund private schools first. We will continue to call on our colleagues for a more transparent, inclusive budget process that addresses the real needs of all Oklahomans."
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