OK Dems Claim Bipartisan Budget Deal Reached, House GOP Says 'Not So Fast'
OKLAHOMA CITY - In a press conference Thursday morning, Oklahoma House of Representatives Democrats said they hammered out a possible budget agreement with members of the Republican party; a development that would mean the end of this year’s rare special session.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, and a dozen members of his caucus told reporters they, along with Gov. Mary Fallin and Senate Republicans had reached a tentative “combination” budget.
According to Inman, the agreement is a six-point compromise on some of the most controversial proposals from the previous regular session. It was clear however, Democrats were forced to give up more ground.
Inman said the plan includes the $1.50 cigarette tax, which had originally been struck down by the State Supreme Court after it was passed, due to a constitutional deadline which bars passing revenue measures in the last week of session. The ruling created a $215 million budget hole and force lawmakers back to the capitol to find ways to fill it.
The plan also includes a six-cent per gallon tax on gas, the elimination of the sales tax for wind energy producers and the addition of taxes on so-called luxury services. Each of the four tax measures came from the Republican side of the aisle.
Democrats said they wouldn’t walk away empty handed from the agreement either. After initially calling for a seven percent increase on the gross production of oil and gas, Inman said his party members agreed to a five percent increase on new wells.
The GPT had been the sharpest point of contention between the two parties during the regular session. Finally, Democrats asked to restore income tax cuts on high earners making more than $200,000 a year or $500,000 for a family of four.
In all, Inman said it amounts to $560 million in revenue for agencies deeply hurt by nearly a decade of budget cuts. It would also fund a $2,000 pay raise for teachers, only a fraction of the promise $5,000 raise.
Left out of the agreement were House Republicans. Speaker Charles McCall’s, R-Atoka, office said unequivocally there is no deal.
“There is no agreement in place,” McCall’s spokesman Jason Sutton said. “The speaker has been in negotiations with Senate leadership and the governor’s office [Thursday] morning and throughout the week.”
One House Republican said neither Fallin nor his colleagues in the Senate were on board, alleging Inman’s statements and the statements of others were not much more than political theater designed to pressure lawmakers into action.
Inman said it was unlikely a vote on the agreement would happen Monday, the first day back for legislators who had recessed after deadlocking in budget negotiations during the first week of the special session.
Inman and McCall's office confirmed the two would meet Sunday night to discuss the budget before legislators return to the Capitol on Monday.
Here's the plan.— Grant Hermes News 9 (@GrantHermesKWTV) October 5, 2017
1. $1.50 cig tax. 2. 6 cent/ga gas increase. 3. Elimination on wind sales tax exemption 4. Service taxes, $48-50M worth.
5. Gov has agreed to a 5% GPT on NEW wells. 6. Income tax cuts for high income earners.— Grant Hermes News 9 (@GrantHermesKWTV) October 5, 2017
Inman: $560M in revenue in this plan to fund core services and a $2K teacher pay raise.— Grant Hermes News 9 (@GrantHermesKWTV) October 5, 2017
Inman: GPT increase would net $300M in coming years to be used for services and a possible public employee pay raise.— Grant Hermes News 9 (@GrantHermesKWTV) October 5, 2017