Bill Passed To Raise Taxes On Older Oil Wells But Addiction Programs Could Still Be Cut

Wednesday, November 1st 2017, 7:02 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

The state House of Representatives passed a bill raising the taxes on so called “Legacy” oil wells, but lawmakers still seem miles apart on a budget solution. 

The bill passed Wednesday would raise roughly $50 million. That’s on top of the $106 million the House wants to raid from the Rainy Day Fund and this year's revenues. It’s a bit closer to bridging the $215 million shortfall, but the plan still has plenty of hurdles.

For two years, Audrey Lucas was homeless and addicted to drugs and alcohol. 

“If it weren’t for the people and places that helped me I would not be here today. I would be dead,” Lucas said. Lucas is in recovery thanks to the same programs that the state plans to cut if lawmakers can’t reach an agreement. Those who rely on those services are scared.

“A lot of crying. A lot of tears. A lot of fear,” said James Patterson of Specialized Outpatient Services. “Most of the clients that we see have their children hanging in the balance. Custody. Their freedom in regards to criminal courts.”

This week, those who receive Advantage waivers for services for the elderly and disabled received letters saying their services would be terminated December first if lawmakers can’t reach a deal. 

Today the House passed a bill to raise the tax on older oil wells from four percent to seven percent. Democrats pushed for an overall increase in the tax, but were shut down by Republicans.

“Where’s the courage? Have we completely lost the courage to do what’s right for Oklahoma citizens?” said Representative Jason Dunnington (D) District 88.

The senate and governor do not appear to be on board with the House plan to raid state coffers.

“We can’t put our state in a deficit by draining all of our money out of all of our accounts and still leave a big hole and go home,” said Governor Mary Fallin.

State Representative John Bennett (R) District 2 told colleagues agencies should be audited before we consider raising taxes to fund them. “The agencies are telling our citizens that they’re going to cut their services to the most vulnerable. That’s...that’s terrorism. We should not be negotiating with terrorists period.”

Lucas says she’s tired of the politics. She says lawmakers should take a cue from the 12-step program that saved her. 

“What I see right now is they’re not. No one is admitting they’re wrong. No one is trying to make amends,” Lucas said. “And it feels a lot like we’re the throw away society.”