The governor and other Republican leaders held a press conference Monday announcing a budget agreement. But the numbers don’t add up, the votes don’t appear to be there to pass it, and the governor is refusing to answer questions about it.
“This package is not perfect but it is very good,” Governor Fallin said. “And I think it is something that all parties should support.”
It’s the Republicans' Hail Mary - trying to fix a budget hole they created when they passed an unconstitutional tobacco tax in the final days of regular session. Now, left with a $215 million budget shortfall, Republicans want to raise taxes to fill that hole.
• a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax
• a $.06 per gallon fuel tax increase
• revised alcohol taxes
They also want to restore:
• the earned income tax credit
• Give teachers a $3,000 annual raise
• Give state workers a $1,000 annual raise
“Our state employees work hard every day doing the things we need them to do. Been over a decade since we’ve given them a pay raise,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz (R).
House peaker Charles McCall (R) added, “If you support healthcare, if you support education, a teacher pay raise, a pay raise for state employees, restoration for earned income tax for low income families in this state, you vote yes.”
The problem is, the math doesn’t work. The tobacco tax would fill the budget hole so that’s a wash. The fuel and alcohol taxes would only raise $210 million, but the raises and tax credits would cost $221 million. That leaves the state $11 million short.
“You run out of money before you get to the teacher pay raise. You run out of money before you get to the $500 million that we’re short for next year,” said Senate Minority Leader John Sparks (D).
The other problem is, even if 100-percent of House Republicans agreed to the plan, which is very unlikely, some democrats would still have to vote for it. And democratic leadership says without an increase in the oil and natural gas tax, they’re not on board.