First Week Of OK Legislative Session In The Books; Taxes Big On Agenda
OKLAHOMA CITY - The first week of the legislative session is in the books, and we’ve learned Oklahomans will likely see an increase in taxes this year. The kinds of taxes and how much of an increase are still being discussed.
In her state of the state address, Governor Mary Fallin recommended about 1-billion dollars in new taxes for everything from doctors visits and funeral services to pet grooming and gasoline.
"So I'm proposing a new revenue stream by increasing our gas and diesel taxes,” said Gov. Fallin.
Democrats said, if Republicans are looking at tax increases you know we’re in trouble.
"I think it shows what desperate straits government finds itself if a Republican is doing that,” said Senator John Sparks (D) Senate Minority Leader.
The Governor and Republican legislative leaders also say they’re making teacher raises a top priority. Democrats doubt it will happen.
"I don't see them doing it this year,” said Representative Scott Inman (D) House Minority Leader. He added, “I think the gasoline tax for all intents and purposes is dead on arrival."
The Oklahoma Department of Corrections told lawmakers they’re bursting at the seams and need new prisons.
"What we're concerned about with everything as how are we going to pay for it? The director of the DOC has said we have to have two more presents now,” said Senator Kay Floyd (D) District 46.
Last November, Oklahoman’s voted to reduce the prison population by changing some non-violent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The new regulations aren’t even in place, and some lawmakers are already trying to change them.
"It's our responsibility to sometimes tweak sometimes tweak things like,” said Senator Michael Bergstrom (R) District 1.
This week, the ACLU sued Attorney General Scott Pruitt because Pruitt hasn’t handed over thousands of pages of documents as part of an open records request.
"They've had the request for more than two years. That's not prompt or reasonable,” said Attorney Blake Lawrence.
Lawmakers will continue discussing tax increases next week. They say the governor’s recommendations are just a starting point.
"Now we spend the next four months working together holding hands and singing kumbaya,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz (R).