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Oklahoma State Department of Health announces budget cuts

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Latest on the Oklahoma budget and agency cuts (all times local):

2 p.m.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health says it will furlough some employees and offer buyouts to others in order to cover an estimated $10 million budget shortfall.

The agency said in a news release Wednesday that employees who are paid more than $35,000 a year will be required to take an unpaid day off during each two-week work cycle starting with the Oct. 30 pay period.

The release said employees who are paid $35,000 annually or less will not be affected by the furloughs.

The agency also said it will offer voluntary buyouts to an undisclosed number of employees statewide, but that the plan is not yet finalized.

DHS Senior Deputy Commissioner Julie Cox-Caines said the shortfall is due to state budget cuts that have cost the agency federal matching funds, in addition to increased costs of providing services.

10:30 a.m.

Oklahoma's House speaker has told his chamber to take a break from the special legislative session until it can come back with a deal to close a $215 million shortfall in the state budget.

Republican House Speaker Charles McCall on Wednesday called for the recess, meaning any negotiations would happen behind closed doors. He said the Legislature's first priority should be addressing a proposed cigarette tax that the state Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional. Lawmakers signed off on the tax during the regular legislative session earlier in the year, but not with a constitutionally required three-fourth's majority vote.

McCall said House Republicans have a plan to fill the budget hole without the need for approval from Democrats. But he said the governor and state Senate's support is essential.

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