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UPDATE: Tuesday "Official" Day at State Capitol (Jan 04, 2011)

OKLAHOMA CITY - Both chambers of the state Legislature officially elected their leadership on Tuesday, and new Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman said the hole in Oklahoma’s budget will continue to focus the attention of lawmakers.

"We must remember it is the taxpayer’s money, it’s not ours," Bingman said. "When they cut back, we cut back. It’s that simple."

Bingman told members of the state Senate Oklahoma’s future is in jeopardy if lawmakers don’t address the financial deficit. He said budget negotiators will face close to a $600-million shortfall, much more than recent estimates of a $240-million hole. Bingman said setting priorities will be key.

"If you believe in funding education, in building our transportation infrastructure, in upholding our promise to our teachers, retirement, and worker’s pensions, then you must understand that to maintain this course, our government is due for a substantial change," Bingman said.

Republicans now have a record number of members in the state Senate. Democratic leader, Senator Andrew Rice, expressed his concerns the stronger majority is instituting new rules placing even more power into the hands of the GOP floor leader and President Pro Temp. The new House Speaker is Republican Kris Steele.

By Kurt Gwartney

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