State Democrats Throw Support Behind New Budget Proposal
OKLAHOMA CITY - For the past year, House Republicans and Democrats have battled over the state’s spending plan and proposed tax increases. Thursday, Republicans in House and Senate committees cried uncle after failing to agree on a tax plan, and instead passed bills to cut $44-million dollars in state agency funding over the next few months wrapping up fiscal year 2018.
“We really have no other options going forward from here because of the failure of the house to be able to pass revenue I’m down to cuts straight across the board,” said Senator Kim David (R) Appropriations Chair.
All agencies would be affected under the Republican bill. But Democrats say, hold on a minute.
“We think that cuts are premature at this point. We think they are completely avoidable. And this we think is a reasonable compromise,” said Representative Emily Virgin (D) Democratic Caucus Chair.
So, House democrats are backing a plan by Republican auditor and gubernatorial candidate Gary Jones.
“I think this is a reasonable compromise for us to come together on something that we agree on and make this state forward instead of this continuous fighting and bickering back and forth,” Jones said.
The plan, proposed by Jones, calls for a 5-percent increase in the gross production tax (GPT), a $0.75 tobacco tax and an increase in the fuel tax; $0.03 for gasoline and $0.06 for diesel.
The plan is said to generate $448 million in revenue, and would provide $5,000 annual raises for teachers and state employees.
“All 28 members of our members would support this agreement if we can get it negotiated with the House Republicans,” said Representative Steve Copeland) (D) House Minority Leader.
Republicans say they’re open to exploring the idea.
“We’ll be analyzing the idea and continuing to move forward so we’re excited that there’s a new idea on the board and it’s worth looking at,” said Representative Jon Echols (R) Majority Floor Leader.
But Republicans in the House say the proposal comes too late to avoid cuts in the 2018 budget. Expect those to pass in the full House and Senate next week.
Jones’ budget proposal could be discussed in the fiscal 2019 budget negotiations.