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Legislators optimistic about projected surplus in revenues

Members of the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce left Friday's legislative forum optimistic about two important pieces of financial news: a projected surplus in revenues for the state budget and the creation of a trust fund to bank excess revenues for future use.

The chamber got its news from six Lawton area legislators, who attended a luncheon forum designed to highlight the 2018 legislative session as they answered questions. Although the session ended in mid-May  earlier than expected  legislators still are dealing with the ramifications of decisions made or not made in a session marked by controversy because of the continuing funding problems.

But, legislators said there was some good news.

Rep. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, cited the Oklahoma Vision Fund proposal when asked about the piece of legislation that was the most important. Montgomery said one of his biggest wins was a bill that would have created a trust fund to hold set-aside gross production taxes, providing a funding mechanism that would help end the state's reliance on oil and gas.

Montgomery said his bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate, which is why he was unhappy when Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed the administrative bill. But, he said supporters are working around that via State Question 800, which would ask voters to amend the State Constitution to include a defined trust fund and require the state to deposit 5 percent of oil and gas gross production taxes into it annually, a move that would protect its contents from "raids" by the Legislature.

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