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Legislative Leader Calls For Cooperation

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A major player in the state’s budget negotiations said a spending plan will be passed on time, but it will only happen if lawmakers put aside their partisan differences.  

“We are committed to put a bill on the floor that will solve the Oklahoma budget issue, that will both fully fund state agencies and will fund a teacher pay raise,” said Republican Rep. Jon Echols, the House Majority Floor Leader.

Echols said lawmakers will be meeting in so called JCAB meetings, which are joint meetings of the House and Senate, every Monday for the next month to discuss their plan. He says it will include some ideas from the governor; senate and house leadership; and ideas from democrats who offered a $1.4 billion plan.  

News 9 asked Echols how the plan would impact taxpayers.  

“I think it’s very unlikely you’ll see very many service taxes come out of this,” he said.

Echols said we can expect an increase in the gasoline and diesel tax, but don’t expect an expansion of Insure Oklahoma, a key provision of the democrats’ plan, because there is so much uncertainty about Obamacare.  

“I think you will likely see some form of a cigarette Tax that comes out of this session that specifically goes to shore up healthcare in the state of Oklahoma,” he said.

The plan will only work, Echols said, if lawmakers compromise.

“The principal of compromise is different than compromising your principles. We have to come together,” he said.

During this week’s JCAB meeting, lawmakers identified about $29 million in new revenue.  

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