OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Here are five things to know about the 2014 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, which begins Monday with Gov. Mary Fallin's delivery of her fourth State of the State address to the Oklahoma people, legislators, statewide elected officials and members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
BUDGET: Legislators currently are projected to have about $6.96 billion to spend on state programs in the budget year that begins July 1. That's $170 million less than lawmakers appropriated last year, and Fallin will present her balanced executive budget to lawmakers on Monday based on this estimate. A state panel will certify a second estimate later this month that will determine exactly how much will be available to spend, but budget leaders already are warning agency directors to prepare for flat or slightly reduced budgets next year.
HOUSE SPEAKER: Current Republican House Speaker T.W. Shannon has decided to run for the U.S. Senate, which is expected to result in a vacancy of the House's top post. Current Speaker Pro Tem Mike Jackson of Enid, the No. 2 House leader and a close Shannon ally, is the front runner to be selected speaker by the 72-member Republican caucus, but he is being challenged by GOP Reps. Jeff Hickman of Dacoma and Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City. Shannon has not indicated when he plans to give up the speakership, so it's not clear when a caucus vote might be held to replace him, but it's likely to happen quickly to ensure a smooth transition to the new leader.
TAXES: Two key tax issues the Legislature are expected to tackle this year is a reduction in the state's personal income tax rate and an expiring tax incentive for certain types of oil and gas drilling. The incentive, which is costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, is a reduction in the typical production tax on oil and gas from 7 percent to 1 percent for horizontal drilling that is set to expire next year. A .25 percent reduction in the income tax cut, which was approved by the Legislature and signed by Fallin last year, was rejected by the courts as unconstitutional because it was included in a bill with more than one subject. The tax cut, which costs about $120 million when fully implemented, could be more challenging to pass this year because of budget concerns.
CAPITOL: A plan to divert $120 million to pay for major repairs to the Capitol was included in the bill rejected by the court, so an overhaul of the nearly 100-year-old building has stalled. Bright yellow barricades in front of the building's grand front staircase prevent pedestrians from nearing where giant pieces of the building's facade have fallen, and major problems remain with the Capitol's hodgepodge of plumbing and electrical systems. Still, legislators separately approved $7 million to help pay for dozens of new and remodeled offices, opulent new conference rooms, and other renovated Capitol space.
MUSEUM BONDS: Plans for a state bond issue to pay for museums in Oklahoma City and Tulsa were derailed in 2013 when a tornado ripped through Moore during the final week of the legislative session. The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum, an ambitious multimillion-dollar project two decades in the making along the banks of the Oklahoma River near the capital city's downtown, is half-built and short of the $40 million in state funds needed to complete the project. A separate $40 million proposal for a Tulsa museum devoted to Oklahoma popular culture, dubbed OKPOP, also has been in the works for years. Both plans have bipartisan support and opposition in both chambers, and are expected to be pushed again in 2014.