Rare Weekend Session Ends With No Budget Agreement

Saturday, May 20th 2017, 11:42 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

Lawmakers held an unusual weekend session trying to reach an agreement over the state budget, but it came to nothing.

Democratic leaders said they're willing to agree to a 4.5 percent tax on new wells instead of the current 2 percent, but Republicans are only willing to go as high as 4 percent.

"That's the cost of one new well in the state of Oklahoma. That is all they're asking. Their oil and lobbyists and corporations who are supporting them, that's all they're asking them to contribute," House Minority Leader Scott Inman said.

House Democrats said, ideally they'd like to see the gross production set at 5 percent, but Republicans said that's too much.

"We think going from 2 percent to 5 percent is just too big of a jump in one year," House Speaker Charles McCall said. "We are in a very fragile economic situation. We do not want to discourage investment and job growth in the state."

"As a manner of fact, if Harold Hamm has enough money to put his own employees -- have them come down from the tower at Continental and bus them over here -- then he must not be hurting too bad, because if he can afford to pay protesters, then I think he can afford 1 more percent," Inman said.

Republicans control the House and Senate, but Democratic votes are needed to pass any new taxes or fees. Democrats have promised to offer all of their 26-member votes if Republicans raised gross production taxes to 5 percent. That would be impossible this weekend, because three Democrats are out of state right now.

"It tells me that they're not serious. It tells me that they don't want to get this budget put together," McCall said.

The governor is expected to call a concurrent session Sunday. That would allow lawmakers to continue discussing revenue raising measures next week. By law, a budget has to be in place by next Friday.