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Oklahoma governor to address Legislature as new session begins

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is scheduled to talk to lawmakers shortly after 12:30 p.m. Monday. Legislators will gather at noon at the state Capitol to convene the first session of the 54th Legislature, which will run through late May.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: February 4, 2013
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Democrats in the House and Senate have expressed concerns about reducing the state's largest single source of revenue at a time when state agencies still are recovering from three years of cuts as a result of the 2008 national depression.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers agree that public schools need more money to especially pay for earlier changes that were not funded by lawmakers. They include better reading instruction and end-of-high school exams in public schools.

The governor earlier said she will seek $40 million of the new growth revenue to pick up Medicaid costs for about 61,000 Oklahomans who are eligible for the health care program for low-income Oklahomans but are not enrolled in the health care program.

The Department of Human Services is seeking a larger than anticipated increase in state funds to accelerate recommended changes in a five-year plan to improve child welfare operations. It is requesting $46 million to implement a plan that was agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging serious problems with the foster care program.

Altogether, agencies have made budget requests totaling an increase of about $1.4 billion for the 2014 fiscal year.

Fallin is also expected to call for significant changes in the way cases of workers hurt on the job is handled.

Republican lawmakers have proposed measures that would change the workers' compensation system from a judicial system to an administrative one. Another measure would allow mostly large employers to create their own workers' compensation plans and opt out of the state system. A bill proposing that change last year failed to pass the House.

The Republican governor and GOP lawmakers may feel the pressure to get results this session. Next year is an election year.

Republicans controlled the governor's office and both chambers of the legislature for the first time during the 2011 session. The governor and Republican legislative leaders had moderate success that year, but stumbled last year, failing to pass a cut in the personal income tax or coming up with money or a way to pay for repairs at the crumbling state Capitol.


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