Tuesday, February 7, 2012
By The Associated Press
Governor Mary Fallin addresses the legislature during her State of the State address Monday.OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin laid out a long list of challenges facing Oklahomans during her State of the State speech Monday, but also praised how well the state has done considering the economic crisis faced by the entire country.
In her address to kick off the 2012 legislative session, Fallin proposed deep cuts to the income tax that would take effect on January 1, 2013. Her plan would cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year, and it's not clear exactly how Fallin would offset the lost revenue.
She says she plans to pay for the tax cut by eliminating "tax loopholes, carve-outs and other exceptions," but the governor's office has not released details on which exemptions would be eliminated.
Under Fallin's plan, those earning $30,000 or less would pay no taxes.
Governor Fallin also proposed a 1.9 percent increase in spending by state government in her executive budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Fallin's budget recommends spending almost $6.6 billion during the upcoming fiscal year, an increase of $124.7 million over the $6.5 billion budget for the current year.
Fallin recommends increasing funding for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services by almost $143 million, a 76.4 percent increase. She recommends cutting the Oklahoma Health Care Authority's budget by $146.7 million, a decrease of almost 15 percent.
Most agency budgets would remain the same as the current year.
Governor Fallin also proposed a plan to fix all 706 of Oklahoma's bridges by 2019, and asked lawmakers to support a bond issue to pay for improvements at the Capitol.
Fallin asked the Legislature to increase the cap on the ROADS fund, which pays for construction and maintenance of state roads. The governor's transportation plan also calls for the repurposing of 1,500 steel beams from the Interstate 40 Crosstown expressway to construct 300 new bridges.
The governor is also asking lawmakers for an additional $20 million a year for the construction of county bridges.
Fallin called the disrepair at the Capitol "embarrassing." She said it's bad for Oklahoma's image and the ability for the state to recruit new business.
Barricades were installed outside the Capitol last year to prevent visitors from climbing the steps of its south portico because mortar and pieces of limestone are falling from slabs overhead.
An engineering study estimates that repairs, along with revamping outmoded electrical, plumbing and other systems, could cost as much as $140 million.