Lawmakers are at an impasse over the state’s $900-million budget shortfall, agencies are being told to brace for massive cuts, and state lawmakers are taking the day off.
This week, lawmakers were entertained by a mariachi band, even as the governor held a rare press conference to scold them over their lack of progress with the budget.
“We have a crisis. We have an emergency. We need to deal with it now,” said Governor Fallin.
The sticking point is gross production taxes, that is, the tax on the production of oil and natural gas. Democrats want the tax to go up and Republicans don’t.
“They key that unlocks the budget box this year is the gross production tax,” said Representative Scott Inman (D) House Minority Leader.
On Monday, Republicans rolled out an omnibus bill to raise the tax on gasoline and diesel by six cents a gallon and raise the tobacco tax. Democrats say they won’t support the tobacco tax unless Republicans support the gross production tax. And Democrats won’t support a gas tax at all.
“I just don’t think it’s a moral choice for the state to say we’re gonna [sic] shift the tax burden from the most wealthy people in the state and the most wealthy companies in the state to middle income families,” said Representative Eric Proctor (D) Tulsa.
Representative Leslie Osborn (R) Canadian County said, “I don’t believe that everyone that buys gas and diesel in the state is indigent.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers blew off several joint meetings to discuss the budget this week and have sent no revenue generating bills to the governor.
“Zero.” The governor said, “Nothing has come to my desk.”
“It’s funny.” Senator John Sparks (D) Minority Leader lamented, “We’re here in May and the conversation is no different than it was February first.”