DALLAS — A former Oklahoma lawmaker has filed a lawsuit seeking to have three years of past budget bills declared unconstitutional.
Former state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, maintains that the bills violate the state constitution's requirement that they deal only with appropriations.
The suit also contends that the bills unlawfully transferred millions of dollars from one area of state government to another.
Attorneys Ted Pool and Jerry Fent are representing Reynolds in the lawsuit, which was filed May 8 in Oklahoma County District Court.
Fent, an Oklahoma City attorney, has succeeded in similar lawsuits in the past. In 2013, Fent won a court ruling that the state's bonds for restoration of the state Capitol were passed unlawfully because the bill combined dissimilar measures, a tactic known as "logrolling."
When the legislature passed a new authorization for $120 million of bonds, Fent filed a lawsuit challenging that measure, too. Fent claims the bill authorizing the bond issue was an unconstitutional special law because it addressed only one state building. The court has not ruled on that issue.
John Estus, a spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, told the Daily Oklahoman that the budget bills would withstand legal scrutiny.
"We're confident these bills, which contain fund transfers similar to scores of other fund transfers in nearly every budget bill in recent history, are constitutional," Estus said.
The lawsuit alleges more than $2 billion in taxpayer money was handled unconstitutionally or unlawfully.
"The plaintiff prays for damages, attorney fees and/or return of all unconstitutional and unlawful money handled in each of the three general appropriations bills," the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit comes as the Oklahoma Legislature tries to wrap up a spending plan for fiscal year 2016 that will be smaller than the current year's $7.1 billion budget because of falling oil and gas revenues.
Revenues have fallen $611 million below projections for the next fiscal year, according to recent estimates.
In April, General Revenue Fund collections came in 11.4% below projections.
As state government's main operating fund, the GRF is the key indicator of state government's fiscal status and the predominant funding source for the annual state budget.