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Legislators discuss state budget at luncheon

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Several of Southwest Oklahoma's lawmakers discussed the state budget crisis in Lawton as they began a weekend break from their work at the Capitol.

They spoke at the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce's legislative luncheon. The budget crisis has dominated this year's session as lawmakers look for ways not only to solve the $1.3 billion budget hole for next year, but to ease the pain on state agencies that have been ordered to make cuts this fiscal year.

They're all deeply involved in coming up with the potential solutions, but anytime those solutions involve huge changes in existing programs, there's bound to be some disagreement over how to execute them. They all say they're committed to finding the best solution for the entire state.

District 62 Rep. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, says the state's financial hardships are impacting the atmosphere at the Capitol.

"The vibe is definitely a lot different this year. Everybody's just trying to make things happen and try to tackle the budget issue that we have this year and try to be team players," Montgomery said.

Montgomery says while the state is looking at options such as the Rainy Day Fund and tax credits to get the budget back in the black, lawmakers' overall goal is to get Oklahoma's work force back up and running.

"We want to make sure that we are not impeding the progress of job creation in this time. To try to get those 13,000 to 16,000 oil field folks re-employed and back into the work force," Montgomery said.

Budget cuts have hit education and Medicaid hard. District 64 Rep. Ann Coody, R-Lawton, believes the cuts made to Medicaid will help keep a better handle on people taking advantage of the service.

"They are not elderly, they’re not handicapped in anyway. They can work," Coody said.

Montgomery agrees that if a person is able to work, they should. He says being able to make that determination gets tricky.

"I would like for us to be more targeted about who we are eliminating from those roles. Make sure we are targeting people who need to be taken off and not taking care away from people who actually need it," Montgomery said.

At the end of the day, Coody say she is optimistic the state will bounce back from financial hardship.

"We have this very large deficit and we will be able to work this out, this is what our job is, so we will be able to work this out," Coody said.

Montgomery says he's currently working on an education bill that will allow people to make a donation to a statewide endowment to support public education. Coody says she's working on a pro-life bill that will require the humanity of the unborn child to be taught in Oklahoma schools.

The Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce will host an end of the year legislative luncheon in June.

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