Oklahoma’s Budget Crisis
Oklahoma continues sliding deeper into its budget crisis as the Department of Corrections Director is now requesting an additional one billion dollars to accommodate the state’s growing inmate population.
The total DOC budget request is 1.53 billion dollars for fiscal year 2019 which begins July 1st. Oklahoma state government is facing a severe crisis as the budget passed during the regular 2017 legislative session was ruled unconstitutional and the Governor vetoed the budget passed in special session. Governor Fallin has said she plans to call the legislature back for a second special session to resolve the budget breakdown. Asking for more than one billion dollars to build two new prisons will only make Oklahoma’s financial problems worse.
However, lawmakers have an opportunity to avert disaster by considering recommendations made by the Governor’s Criminal Justice Reform Task Force. The recommendations include provisions for early release of non-violent inmates, reducing mandatory sentencing for low-level offense such as drug possession and property theft, and also providing alternative sentencing for non-violent crimes.
On a positive note, the five reform bills to come out of the Governor’s Task Force ended with a “Conferees Do Not Agree” report in the House Judiciary committee. That means the bills are eligible to be heard within the first week of the 2018 legislative session. Leadership should take this opportunity to enact policies proven to work in other conservative states such as Texas, Georgia, and Mississippi.
Oklahoma must do the same because, simply put, it is the conservative and responsible thing to do.