Capitol Updates

 This week's Capitol Updates newsletter:


March 19, 2018

With only 2 weeks left until the April 2nd deadline set by teachers to demonstrate at the Capitol, there may already be some effect on legislative plans. Next week is spring break for most school districts, and it has become customary in recent years to have a light workload during "spring break" week. Committee work is usually light to allow legislators family time while their children or spouses are out of school without missing too much legislative activity. With the walkout looming, some committee chairs may decide to forge ahead in case their normal scheduling gets interrupted later.

More importantly there has been some activity in both the House and Senate to work on a solution to settle the impasse and avoid the walkouts. So far, however there has not been much success. The Senate has made several revenue proposals, but none has seemed to stick. No doubt they will continue to try to find enough votes to pass something out of the Senate.

The House, on the other hand, has been unable to surface any specific new revenue proposal. House Republicans announced a teacher pay proposal unattached to any revenue proposal which was met with a negative response by the Oklahoma Education Association. House leaders seem tapped out of ideas for some combination of revenue increases that can get sufficient Democratic votes without losing at least an equal number of Republican votes. They are still dealing with a sizeable minority of Republican members who simply will not vote for any revenue increase.

One thing I haven't heard about is any recent talks between House and Senate leaders together. This is usually the only way a final bill can get passed. It's hard to know if this is a failure of process, policy or personalities. It may be just that everyone knows where everyone is, and no one is willing to move. It will be interesting to see if several thousand educators and their supporters occupying the capitol grounds for a while can move anyone. If not, we may have to wait for the people to weigh in at elections later in the year. All sides seem to be betting they are where their constituents want them to be.

Echols: Second special session to continue until teacher pay plan considered

Shawn Ashley, eCapitol

The House plans to keep the second special session open until a teacher pay plan is considered, House Majority Floor Leader John Echols said Monday.

"We will close special session when we have an agreed to teachers' pay plan considered," Echols said in an interview as the House convened Monday morning.

The second special session began Dec. 18 after Gov. Mary Fallin asked lawmakers to consider approving fiscal year 2018 funding for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to help avoid provider cuts. Fallin has amended that call three times. The most recent amendment allowed the Legislature to pass HB1020XX, the FY2018 budget rebalancing bill.

Fallin's second special session executive order likely would have to be amended again to accommodate the proposal put forth Thursday by the Oklahoma Education Association. That proposal calls for a $6,000 teacher pay raise, $1,000 more than the one Fallin proposed in her second amended executive order. It also includes a state employee pay raise, which was not listed in any of Fallin's second special session executive orders. Absent from the orders, too, are education support personnel pay increases.

Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said it is easier to move a bill through special session than it is through regular session. In special session, a bill can be introduced and first read one day, second read and assigned to direct to calendar the next and heard on the floor the third day. The bill also could be assigned to the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget the second day and heard on the floor the third day. It would then be heard in the opposite chamber on the fifth day.

Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat said Thursday the special session was remaining open at the House's request.

As long as the special session continues, lawmakers will have to hold pro forma floor sessions for it. Thus far, those typically have been held on Monday and Thursday to meet the Constitutions' requirement that a chamber not be out of session for more than three days without the approval of the opposite chamber. The chambers gavel in and gavel out of the floor session without taking up any legislation or other business.

"We are willing to look at any and all options for a teachers' pay raise," Echols added.

The most recent plan to be considered, the Step Up Oklahoma plan, failed 64-35 on the House floor Feb. 12. The bill, HB1033XX, included a series of tax increases designed to fund a teachers' pay raise and to provide recurring revenue in future fiscal years. It needed a three-fourths vote, 76 votes, for approval.

HB1033XX, by Rep. Dennis Ray Casey, R-Morrison, Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, and Sen. Kimberly David, R-Porter, states the provisions of the bill are being enacted under the state constitutional provisions regarding a general revenue bill. The bill imposes an additional $1.50 per pack tax on cigarettes. . It places limits on the sale of cigarette stamps to wholesalers by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. It creates the State Health Care Enhancement Fund. It changes the taxation of little cigars to mirror cigarettes. It imposes, in addition to other taxes, a 10 percent of the factory list price tax on chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco and snuff. The bill allocates revenue from the tax on chewing tobacco, smokeless tobacco and snuff prior to July 1, 2019, to the General Revenue Fund and it allocates revenue from the tax after July 1, 2019, to the Health Care Enhancement Fund. It prohibits a retailer from advertising that they will absorb the tax. The bill adds an additional $0.06 tax to each gallon of gasoline and diesel. The bill allocates revenue from the additional tax on gasoline and diesel prior to July 1, 2019, to the General Revenue Fund and it allocates revenue from the tax after July 1, 2019, to the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety Fund. . It increases the gross production incentive rate from 2 percent for the first 36 months of production to 4 percent for the first 36 months. The bill provides where the production from a production enhancement project is not commingled with previously existing production within the well for which the project is being conducted, the base production amount will be considered to be zero. It removes references to "workovers." It defines the term "inactive well." It creates the Oklahoma Zero-Emission Facility Energy Tax Act of 2018. It defines applicable terms. It imposes a $1 per megawatt hour of electricity produced. The bill provides that the tax on wind energy production is in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other taxes or fees currently levied or assessed, or levied or assessed in the future, on each commercial wind turbine in the state which is a zero-emission facility, or any other zero-emission facility. The bill exempts wind turbines with a nameplate capacity of less than 50 kilowatts. It exempts turbines used for home or business power. It establishes payment procedures for the tax on zero-emission wind facilities and apportions the revenue to the General Revenue Fund.

McCall outlines House Republican Caucus' teacher pay plan

Sidney Lee, eCapitol

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, put forth a House Republican Caucus plan Thursday to increase teacher pay over the next six years.
Within minutes after the press conference announcing the plan ended, the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) released a statement rejecting it.
"This is a long-term solution, not a one-time bonus," McCall said.
The plan would require $114.2 million in the first year, or the first step, according to McCall. He said the House Republican Caucus can pass measures that would not technically be revenue-raising measures, like caps on tax credits, without the minority party's votes.
The plan was created with help from Professional Oklahoma Educators.
"We developed a plan with House leadership that rewards our career teachers by raising their pay throughout the schedule," POE Executive Director Ginger Tinney said.
Funding further steps in the program would be up to future legislatures.
But it did not address salaries for support staff or other public employees, nor did it address the rest of the education budget.
Rep. Michael Rogers, R-Broken Arrow, said during the press conference announcing the plan that it gives Oklahoma the opportunity to have a long- term plan, but like any plan there would be those who don't like the plan.
He also said support staff and other public employees are important, but the legislature's top concern and focus was teacher pay.
The total pay increase for teachers also does not meet the demands put forth by OEA.
"The deal announced today by Speaker Charles McCall and his leadership team is not a plan at all," OEA President Alicia Priest said. "In fact, it's worse than the plan that failed the Senate last night, and once again, it's nothing more than a political stunt that falls woefully short of the revenue needed to save our schools and keep teachers in Oklahoma classrooms."
Priest said the movement is bigger than any one group and "these kinds of political games" have created the anger and frustration driving the teacher walk out.
Priest said OEA stands ready to offer a way to pay for a real plan. Within a few hours, the Oklahoma Policy Institute released a plan laying out how the Legislature could raise revenue for OEA's demands. It involved multiple measures previously introduced by Republicans, Democrats and interest groups outside the capitol.
"The fact is that the OEA plan can be fully paid for through a balanced and sustainable mix of new, ongoing revenues," OK Policy Executive Director David Blatt said in the blog post sharing the think tank's plan. "Together these options would ask all Oklahoma households and businesses to contribute their fair share without putting too much of the cost on any one group, and they would be a huge step towards solving the crisis Oklahoma faces as a result of years of budget cuts and underfunding."
OEA teachers still plan to walk out on April 2 if their demands are not met.

Senate fails revenue-raising measure, passes teacher pay raise, EITC refundability bills

Shawn Ashley, eCapitol

A bill aimed at raising revenue to pay for a teachers' and state employee pay raise failed Wednesday night to win the approval of the Senate, leaving in limbo legislation approved earlier in the evening that provided the teacher pay raise and restored the Earned Income Tax Credit's refundability.

The floor substitute for HB1033XX failed 34-12, coming up two votes short of the three-fourths vote needed after the roll was held open for more than an hour and a half. All eight members of the Senate Democrat Caucus voted against the measure along with four Republicans.

The FS for HB1033XX, by Rep. Dennis Ray Casey, R-Morrison, Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, and Sen. Kimberly David, R-Porter, increases the cigarette tax by $1 per pack. The bill increases the gasoline tax by $0.06 per gallon and the diesel tax by $0.06 per gallon. The bill increases the gross production tax discount rate on all wells from 2 percent to 4 percent. The bill establishes revenue allocations. David said the bill would generate $415 million.

In a midnight press conference, Senate Minority Leader John Sparks, D-Norman, said there was no hesitation among his caucus' members to vote against the bill. "It's just math. We looked at the numbers and there is no money for school operations, no money for support staff and the money for health care was being diverted the first year to pay for the teacher pay raises," he said.

Sparks said, "This bill would not address the needs that have been clearly laid out by the education community."

The Oklahoma Education Association outlined a plan one week ago that calls for $812 million in fiscal year 2019 funding for teacher, support staff and state employee pay raises, along with the restoration of operational funding for common education and health care funding.

Sparks said the education community "has given us a clear indication of what we needed to do."

Sparks acknowledged he and his caucus had voted in favor of previous revenue-raising measures, but now he said the needs have changed. "The scope of the problem has changed."

Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus, noted on the floor and in a press conference with Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, that Senate Democrats had joined Senate Republicans in May and November to vote for similar revenue-raising measures that would have provided smaller pay raises to teachers and no pay raises to state employees. Had the votes stayed the same, Treat said the bill would have passed.

"I am disappointed we didn't get there," said Schulz, "but I feel confident we can get there in the next week or two.

David held the bill on a notice to reconsider and the Senate requested permission of the House to adjourn the special session for more than three days, until the call of the chair. If that permission is granted, the special session could be adjourned indefinitely. It also would mean the three legislative days David has to exercise her notice would not begin ticking until the special session reconvenes.

Schulz said talks would continue with Senate Democrats. He also noted one member, Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, was absent from Wednesday's votes while traveling on business.

During the Senate's consideration of the bill, some House Democrats expressed their opposition to the plan. Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, for example, called it "a half-hearted attempt" to provide education "much less than they deserved."

Treat noted 23 House Democrats, too, had voted in favor of a measure that provided a smaller raise for teachers. Treat added the removal of the wind gross production tax, a reduction of the cigarette tax and an increase in oil and gas' gross production taxes were changes House Democrats had requested from the plan considered in February. "Let's see if they are serious," he said.

The two other bills - SB0133 and SB0861, both from the regular session - are dependent on HB1033XX's passage to take effect.

The floor substitute for SB0133, by Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, increases teacher pay 12.7 percent. The bill and its emergency clause passed 35-11 with no discussion or debate.

The floor substitute for SB0861, by Sen. Kimberly David, R-Porter and Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, restores refundability of the Earned Income Tax Credit beginning Jan. 1, 2018. The bill and its emergency clause passed 42-4 with no debate or discussion.

While the vote was held open on HB1033XX, there were moments it appears efforts were being made to change votes. Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, took Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, and Sen. Joseph Silk, R-Broken Bow, off the floor for a several minute conversation. Brecheen and Silk were two of the four Republican nay votes on the measure. Other members could be seen at various time button holing the two men. Treat, too, left the floor with Sparks and Senate Democrat Caucus Chair Kay Floyd, from Oklahoma City, for a while. Democrats gathered as a group near Sen. J.J. Dossett's desk for a discussion of some length during the vote.

At one point, Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, sat on the edge of Sen. Anastasia Pittman's desk, bumping her voting machine and changing her nay to a yea. Other caucus members noticed the change and the Oklahoma City Democrat's vote was returned to a nay.

Treat's foster care, adoption bill wins Senate approval

Shawn Ashley, eCapitol

A bill its author said he believed would increase the number of families participating in foster care, as well as the number of adoptions, won Senate approval Tuesday morning.

SB1140, by Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Travis Dunlap, R-Bartlesville, passed as amended and with its title restored. The bill prohibits a private child-placing agency from being required, to the extent allowed by federal law, to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies. The bill also prohibits the Department of Human Services from denying an application for an initial license or renewal of a license or revoking the license of a private child-placing agency because of the agency's objection to performing, assisting, counseling, recommending, consenting to, referring, or participating in a placement that violates the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies. It prohibits a state or local government entity from denying a private child-placing agency any grant, contract, or participation in a government program because of the agency's objection to performing, assisting, counseling, recommending, consenting to, referring, or participating in a placement that violates the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies. It provides that the refusal of a private child-placing agency to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in a placement that violates the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies will not form the basis of a civil action.

The amendment, by Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie, prohibits a private child-placing agency from refusing to perform any act otherwise required by state or federal law or authorizing any act otherwise prohibited by state or federal law. The amendment also provides the provisions of the bill cannot be construed to allow a private child-placing agency to refuse any services to a child in the custody of the Department of Human Services

In addition to increasing participation, Treat said the bill was designed to head off lawsuits, like one in Michigan, that challenged the ability of groups with a statement of faith from participating in the state foster care and adoption system.

Responding to questions from Sen. Alison Ikley-Freeman, D-Tulsa, and Sen. Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, Treat said similar language in four other states had led to increases in the number of adoptions in those states. Ikley-Freeman questioned how those numbers compared to earlier years. Treat said he did not have that data. Brooks asked whether adoptions, in general, had increased during the period cited. Treat called that a good question to which he did not know the answer.

He stressed adoptions increased in the year following each state's approval of similar language in each of the state's mentioned, according to a 2017 federal government report.

Ikley-Freeman also asked how the bill would affect the long-term number of children waiting in foster care. Treat said it would bring more participants into the adoption process and not negatively impact those already working with the state.

Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, said he was concerned by laws that protected "deeply held religious values" and had opposed them on the floor because he saw them as doorway to discrimination. Treat tried to assure him that the opposite was true. What the bill did, Treat said, was ensure that organizations with deeply held religious values were not precluded from participating in the foster care and adoption system, while it did nothing to those who were already participating, including those that placed children with same-sex couples, for example.

"If you want to protect entities that have a statement of faith based on deeply held religious beliefs, this is the avenue to do that," Treat said, adding "It would not require them to do anything that violates their statement of faith and does not prevent other agencies from providing services to same sex couples."

Brooks asked whether a failure to pass the bill might decrease the number of foster care and adoption providers. Treat said it's failure could jeopardize the participation of organizations with statements of faith, regardless of their religious affiliation.

In debate on the bill, Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City, said she had worked with Treat hoping to find a middle ground but they had been unable to do so.

Floyd said, "For dozens and dozens of years we've had adoptions in this state and there has not been a lawsuit. There has not been talk of a lawsuit."

Floyd said the thought the bill, although promoted to protect groups against lawsuits, would result in litigation. "I am deeply concerned that in our zealousness to protect a group that has not needed protection in the past is now going to be put in harm's way."

Floyd said it was the children that most needed protection.

Matthews said, "I cannot stand by and support this bill...I think it is unsafe to pass just because of personal beliefs that may discriminate against others doing something that is not illegal."

Ikley-Freeman said she did believe the data showed adoption rates in states that had adopted similar laws had continued to increase. "The intent is to help adoption rates, but I just don't think this is going to do it."

Griffin reminded the senators that the bill ultimately was about children, not about the organizations, processes and systems that members were discussing. Griffin noted that Oklahoma's leads the nation in the growth of its adoption rate and noted the role private organizations played in that improvement.

Griffin said she rose to debate to remind members that the children about which they were talking had experienced traumatic lives and had been removed from their families. "They feel like our society has failed them because it has," she said.

"This cannot be about organizations' desires, because if we allow as a body for the politics to get in the way of policies that care for our kids, we are to be blamed," added Griffin.

Closing debate, Treat acknowledged, "I know this is an emotional bill on all sides."

He said his only desire was to increase the amount of homes available for foster care and adoptions. "Right now, there are entities that believe they cannot be involved because of potential litigation...the purpose, the intent of this bill is entirely to get more kids adopted into loving homes and to get homes in the foster care system."

The bill now goes to the House for its consideration.

Senate Republican Caucus elects Treat president pro tempore-designate

Shawn Ashley, eCapitol

The Senate Republican Caucus elected Majority Floor Leader Greg Treat its president pro tempore-designate during a meeting Monday.
Treat, R-Oklahoma City, will succeed Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz, R-Altus, if elected by the full Senate when it meets for the 57th Legislature's organizational day Jan. 7. Schulz is term limited this year.
"Oklahoma is a tremendous state, and Senate Republicans work hard each day to help our state overcome the challenges facing us. I truly am humbled by the confidence my Senate Republican colleagues have placed in me by selecting me to serve as the next pro tem," Treat said. "Senate Republicans have sought to enact policies that preserve and expand our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats, and leading the Senate with clarity, passion, and integrity as we continue working to make Oklahoma an even better place to live, to work, and to raise a family."
Treat was first elected to the Senate in 2011 to fill the unexpired term of former Sen. Todd Lamb, R-Edmond, who had been elected lieutenant governor. Treat is term limited in 2024.
Treat was elected by unanimous acclamation Monday. Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, and Sen. Robert Standridge, R-Norman, had previously been in the race for the post. Standridge withdrew several weeks ago.
Under the rules of the Senate Republican Caucus, the remainder of the Senate Republican leadership team will be chosen following the general election in November.
The House Republican Caucus named House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, its speaker-designate in a meeting Wednesday.

Proposed state question lowering revenue raiser threshold receives do pass from the House

Tyler Talley, eCapitol

A proposed ballot measure lowering the threshold for the Legislature to pass revenue raising measures narrowly advanced off the House floor Thursday afternoon after nearly two hours of discussion and debate.

The proposal, HJR1050, drew ire from both sides of the aisle as some argued it would only serve to go against the will of the people who passed the original ballot measure raising the threshold and others seeing the resolution as an avenue for the Legislature to raise taxes more easily.

Concerns over the latter held particularly potency given a recent string of revenue raisers that failed to advance due to the current majority threshold requirement.

HJR1050, by Rep. Scott Fetgatter, R-Okmulgee, and Sen. Kim David, R-Porter, as amended, proposes a vote of the people on a constitutional amendment that reduces the percentage of votes required to enact a revenue-raising measure from three fourths, or 75 percent, of each chamber to two thirds, or 66.66 percent, of each chamber.

There was a proposed amendment lowering the threshold even further to three fifths put forth but was ultimately tabled on a vote of 45-41.

Several members questioned Fetgatter on his intent behind the resolution, many of which argued it would circumvent State Question 640 which raised the threshold 26 years ago and upend the will of the people. It was noted repeatedly the earlier ballot measure originated from a crowd-sourced initiative petition.

"I'm not making easier to raise taxes on our constituents," Fetgatter said. "I am simply running a piece of legislation to let the constituents decide how we govern as far as revenue raising measures go in the House and Senate."

Fetgatter reiterated, several times throughout the afternoon, that his intent behind the bill was not to overturn the will of the people but to instead allow voters that were either not born or of voting age 26 years ago to have a say in how Oklahoma is governed.

"I ran this because I have had hundreds and hundreds of conversations over the past 15 months with Oklahomans as well as my constituents that have asked me what part of the problem is...this is part of the problem we've had in raising revenue," he continued. "I'm doing what I'm supposed to do which is listen to the Oklahomans I have spoken to...and they have asked me to run something to give them a chance to re-look at this."

He added, "Whether it passes a vote of the people or not is irregardless to me. I only care that my constituents, your constituents and every other constituent in the state of Oklahoma has another chance to look at this."

This statement was misconstrued by more than member who argued it meant Fetgatter did not care whether his legislation passed off the floor.

Fetgatter later clarified he did care about the resolution passed, reiterating his stance that Oklahoma voters should be given a chance to weigh in on their government.

"I will follow whatever the will of the people is," he summarized. "If they fail the ballot measure, I don't care. That is their choice and I will live within the guidelines that Oklahomans tell me they want to live in."

Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, asked Fetgatter if the bill was concerning to some in the chamber as it could potentially upset the power structure therein.

"Would you agree that the way things are now, we're giving the veto power to a small minority of 26 legislators [a reference to House Democrats] that withholds us from being able to govern the way that our constituents want," McEntire asked.

"Hence tabling the amendment," Fetgatter responded frankly.

After a lengthy questioning period, the resolution was met with bipartisan opposition in a relatively heated debate period with Fetgatter being the sole legislator to speak in favor of the legislation.

Rep. Eric Proctor, R- Tulsa, argued the resolution would do nothing to fix the state's ongoing revenue problem as it did not what address what caused the problem.

"What caused the problem is that this Legislature, over the portion of the last decade, cut taxes vastly benefiting the most wealthy people in our state. We reduced the gross production tax deeper than any state in the country. We gave away corporate welfare to the tune of billions of dollars in tax cuts to the wealthy," Proctor argued. "What this bill does is make it easier to pass the buck. It makes it easy to raise taxes on poor people because that's the only taxes that will ever fly off this floor collectively."

Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, argued it should remain difficult for the Legislature to raise taxes.

"It shouldn't be easy but yet the representative from Okmulgee would like to lower that threshold to make it easier for this body to pass taxes," Faught said. "I think it's a bad precedent to make it easy for us to pass taxes on the citizens that we represent."

Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha, said in his debate the Legislature should move more towards cooperation and "working across the aisle," arguing the resolution would only serve to nix any attempts at compromise.

"If this were the law right now, we would have additional revenue, but that additional revenue would not be the type of revenue that's good for the state of Oklahoma," Perryman posited. "We'd have regressive taxes that hurt people. We would not even be talking about GPT."

"The threshold is there so we'll work across the aisle," he continued. "Let's negotiate a solution. The solution's there. We can do it with 75 percent. If we can't, there's people that need to go home."

Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, also debated against the proposal, arguing that voters felt the same way about the threshold as they did when SQ640 passed in 1992.

"We're living in a bubble up here," Bennett said. "The people are sick and tired of us trying to raise taxes. They certainly don't want us to try to make it easier."

After what he described as his "first whuppin'" on the House floor, Fetgatter closed debate. He likened many who spoke in opposition to peacocks, "obnoxious and loud" birds that flair their tails.

"That's what we got today," he said. "A bunch of peacocks."

He cited HB1482, which was an attempt to modify provisions of SQ780 after it had passed on a majority vote of the people in 2017.

The state question reclassified certain low-level offenses, like simple drug possession and lower-level property offenses, as misdemeanors rather than felonies.

General Revenue Fund collections narrowly miss estimate, exceed prior year

Shawn Ashley, eCapitol

General Revenue Fund collections for February were $294.2 million and came in at $2.0 million or 0.7 percent, below the monthly estimate but $46.2 million or 18.6 percent above the prior year, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported Tuesday.

"February collections are historically our lowest collection month, and as predicted, we came up short this month," said Office of Management and Enterprise Services Director Denise Northrup. "As we look forward to the remainder of the fiscal year, slow and steady progress should be expected."

Total income tax collections came in at $44.3 million, $19.5 million or 78.6 percent, above the estimate. The other revenues category had collections of $42.9 million, which was $11.4 million, or 20.9 percent, below the estimate mostly due to a transfer of $16.7 million to the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), the office indicated.

March marks the first month that agency allocations were reduced as a result of the budget cuts in HB1020XX, the fiscal year 2018 budget re-balancing bill approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in February. The bill, by Rep. Dennis Ray Casey, R-Morrison, Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, and Sen. Kimberly David, R-Porter, implements 0.66 percent cuts across-the-board.

"It's important to reiterate that we are still in recovery mode and any declaration otherwise would be an embellishment of our financial reality. Most of the increases we have seen the past few months have been due to law changes, not economic growth," Northrup said.

Major tax categories in February contributed the following amounts to the GRF:

* Total income tax collections of $44.3 million consisted entirely of individual income tax collections and were $19.5 million, or 78.6 percent, above the estimate and $21.9 million, or 98.1 percent, above the prior year. Corporate income tax collections made no contribution to the General Revenue Fund from February collections and none were estimated to be received due to previous years' history.

* Sales tax collections of $164.4 million were $7.3 million, or 4.7 percent, above the estimate and $23.4 million, or 16.6 percent, above the prior year.

* Gross production tax collections of $28.1 million were $16.0 million, or 36.3 percent, below the estimate and $12.9 million, or 84.3 percent, above the prior year. Natural gas collections of $23.4 million were $3.7 million, or 13.6 percent, below the estimate and $10.1 million, or 76.7 percent, above the prior year. Oil collections of $4.8 million were $12.3 million, or 72.1 percent, below the estimate and $2.7 million, or 134.2 percent, above the prior year.

* Motor vehicle tax collections of $14.4 million were $1.4 million, or 9.0 percent, below the estimate and $215,000, or 1.5 percent, below the prior year.

* Other revenue collections of $42.9 million were $11.4 million, or 20.9 percent, below the estimate and $11.9 million, or 21.7 percent, below the prior year.

Total General Revenue Fund collections over the first eight months of the fiscal year were $3.6 billion which is $120.4 million or 3.5 percent, above the year-to-date estimate and $415.0 million or 13.2 percent over the year-to-date for 2017.

Have a good week. Give me a call at 918.671.6860 if I can be of help in any way.