Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb expects another budget hole in 2016
Ponca City Now - November 13, 2015 1:53 pm
By Beverly Bryant/News Director
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb expressed his appreciation and affection for Ponca City as he opened Friday’s Ponca Politics session in City Hall.
Mayor Homer Nicholson introduced Lamb and gave his brief biography, noting he was elected Lt. Governor in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. He previously worked for Frank Keating and Don Nickles, was a member of the Secret Service and was in the Oklahoma State Senate, among other pursuits.
Lamb, who is from Enid, named his professional mentor Ike Glass; T.L Walker, who has served on the state Tourism Board; banker Carl Renfro and barbecue expert Danny Head among Ponca City residents with whom he enjoys personal relationships.
"I can pass a polygraph exam when I say I love Ponca City," he said.
Lamb then hit on the key duties he performs as Lieutenant Governor. He said there is a lot of ambiguity in the office, but certain duties are dictated by the state Constitution and state statutes.He appoints a delegate or serves on 10 state boards and commissions.
Lamb is the second Republican in the history of Oklahoma statehood to serve as Lieutenant Governor — the first Republican to do so was now-Gov. Mary Fallin.
His office operates autonomously and independently from the Governor’s office, he explained. As Oklahoma’s government is set up, he said, the state can have two top executives who don’t always get along.
Among his duties, Lamb acts as an advocate for small businesses, which represent 97 percent of the state’s commerce.
"I go to every county every single year," he said. "It’s not just stopping in the Panhandle for a dipped-top ice cream cone at the Dairy Queen. These are visits consistence."
Two questions he frequently asks on his visits are "Based on your life experience and business model, what is your advice for me?", followed by "What would you do?"
He said the lieutenant governor should have a platform or agenda for guiding his work in the office.
"As Lieutenant Governor, I want Oklahoma to beat Texas in something besides football," he said. "We have two children, a son, 15, and a daughter, 12. I don’t want our children to be forced to move to Texas because that’s where the jobs are."
Lamb also serves on the Board of Adjustment, which will meet Dec. 21 to discuss how much money the 2016 Legislature will have to appropriate. He anticipates that there will be another "budget hole" in that session.
"I don’t know if it will be $500 million or $2 billion with a B, but I expect another hole," he said.
He said Oklahoma’s economy is directly tied to commodities.
"It is more challenging with our oil and gas commodities because the price is set by people who do not like us," he said. "That’s our challenge."
In recent years, he said, the economy is becoming more diverse with the aerospace industry and bioscience, as well as tourism, which is the third leading industry in Oklahoma.
"We will continue to be independent, but we must keep our foot on the accelerator," he said.
To help make Oklahoma’s economy stronger, he said, "I’m going to work with Kay County to make sure the best thing in Texas is I-35 northbound."
Jennifer Rogers with the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority asked Lamb if he would support a budget-only session. He said he was not opposed to the idea, mainly because no one has expressed why it would be a bad idea.
He said the Legislature typically passes between 1,200 and 1,500 policy bills every session.
"I would humbly offer to you that that is unnecessary," he said.
Another audience member asked for his opinion on a 1-cent sales tax for education, proposed by OU president David Boren.
"Not every sales tax is the same," he said. "Some communities have passed a sales tax for something they want to do short term," citing a recent issue in Norman.
"Over 50 percent of the budget goes to education," he said. "There needs to be more of a priority for getting that into the classroom for common education."
He said his wife Monica is a fourth grade teacher and they have seen four "saviors" for education — liquor by the drink; pari-mutuel betting; House Bill 1017, and the education lottery.
"That’s four ‘saviors’ for education," he said. Success "must be tied to reform — we’ve got to get the money into the classroom."
Several members of the audience were involved with agencies which receive state funding for their services, and they expressed their concern about additional upcoming budget cuts.
Robin Abshire with RSVP said she attended a meeting in Oklahoma City yesterday and was told to anticipate additional cuts in her budget for seniors and veterans in aging services.
"How do we continue to provide services?" she asked Lamb.
"We are past cutting fat and are now cutting bone," Lamb said. "RCB and Glass Trucking have to do that. They have to keep cutting until they don’t have to cut any more."
Abshire said her budget was cut 10 percent in 2014, 28 percent in 2015 and she has been told to expect another 10 percent cut in 2016.
Lilly Freeman with Smart Start Kay County, asked about working with incarcerated women to reduce the cost of keeping women with minor infractions in prison and educating them to become gainfully employed.
Lamb said he authored a bill with Chris Steel in 2009-10 to work with a rehabilitation program in Tulsa for just that purpose. Some 60 percent of the women who graduated from that program are employed.
"We can never do anything to jeopardize the safety of our citizens," he said.
Adam Leaming, CEO of the University Center in Ponca City, asked if budget cuts were targeting internal inefficiencies in state agencies and if any taxes were being considered to offset cuts to essential services.
"More cuts and streamlining will be required," Lamb said. "We will be looking at examinations and incentives… Everything is on the table. But taking more money from this room will not help. It’s not returned to you when times are good."
Ponca Politics will be rebroadcast for viewing:
Channel 22 at 10:30 a.m., 6:30 p.m., and 9:30 p.m., beginning Monday, Nov. 16 through Sunday, Nov. 22
The City of Ponca City’s web page, www. poncacityok.gov, located under City Services/Videos
A link on the City of Ponca City’s Facebook page, which is City of Ponca City, OK
And a link on the City of Ponca City’s Twitter, which is twitter @PoncaCityOKgov