(The Center Square) - Oklahoma lawmakers will hold a concurrent legislative session to discuss spending funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The state has $1.8 billion available but has $17.8 billion in requests that were made to a joint committee, according to a news release from the Senate and House of Representatives.
"Ensuring the joint committee's public-driven process can run its full course is in Oklahoma's best interest," said Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, in a statement. "A concurrent session allows for a comprehensive, strategic plan to be enacted through appropriations after a full vetting of submissions and public discussion of how to best deploy these resources."
The Legislature will also discuss how to recoup nearly $700 million in tax incentives offered to a company should they choose not to locate in Oklahoma.
The state is reportedly vying with Kansas for a Panasonic manufacturing facility that would make batteries for electric cars. The project is referred to as "Project Ocean."
"We are confident Project Ocean will choose Oklahoma, but should it not, this mechanism allows for the legislative action necessary for the allocated funds to be quickly recaptured," said House Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, in the news release.
Lawmakers will also discuss $250 million included in the state budget for the Progressing Rural Economic Prosperity Fund (PREP). The fund is used to upgrade areas of the state in hopes of competing for future economic opportunities, lawmakers said.
"The details of how to best deploy that $250 million in a way that helps make all of Oklahoma competitive for future economic megaprojects remain under discussion and, once finalized, can be codified in this session," said Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Chuck Hall, R-Perry.
Lawmakers convened the special session Wednesday. It's scheduled to continue past the current legislative session.
The Legislature continues to wrap up a flurry of bills, including the $9.7 billion budget.
The Senate approved the spending plan by a 34-13 vote Wednesday. Four Republicans and all Senate Democrats voted against the bill. The budget includes $75 tax rebates for single filers and $150 rebates for married filers that would be paid in December.
Members of the Democratic caucus said the bill did not do enough for schools or residents.
"Oklahomans deserve a budget that is more responsive to the needs they have today," said Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, a member of the Senate appropriations and finance committees. "Today, a majority of Oklahomans face difficulty meeting their usual household expenses. They do not need $75 in December. They need relief today. "
The budget bill is now in the House of Representatives.
via Oklahoma's Center Square News