State Legislature Leaves Amid Budget Impasse

Thursday, May 4th 2017, 6:42 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

The state budget impasse continues with legislative leaders pointing lots of fingers, but getting little accomplished publicly to bridge the nearly $900-million budget gap.

The sticking point continues to be the tax on oil and natural gas production, known as the gross production tax, which could bring in $300-million.

House Democrats say they won’t back a plan to impose a $1.50 tax on tobacco unless, Republicans agree to increase the gross production tax. But, Republicans are not budging because they say the tax increase would hurt oil drilling.

“If you’re doing something to diminish, decrease, not encourage the activity of exploration and production then in the long run you’re hurting yourself,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz. “I am opposed to it.”

Republicans plan to raise $4.5 million dollars with changes in tax deductions, but Democrats say they won’t back republicans plan to raise $180-million by raising the gasoline and diesel tax by six cents a gallon.

“I do think there will be a budget passed,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D).  “I think a lot of times in this building you’ve got grown adults who act like 19-year-old college students that wait till the very last minute to cram for their college exam. I think that’s where we are.”

But with just 10-working days left to come to an agreement, not a single revenue raising bill has been sent to the governor.

“The big issue that was brought before the legislature was whether or not to double the fees on coke machines,” said Senator John Sparks (D) Senate Minority Leader. “C’mon.”