With just 12 working days left to fill an $878 million budget hole, lawmakers have reached a stalemate.
Now, the governor, who normally won’t comment during budget negotiations, is weighing in.
Lawmakers skipped two scheduled meetings Wednesday afternoon to discuss the budget. Instead, members of the House of Representatives spent some of their time singing happy birthday to one of their colleagues.
The sticking point with the budget is the tax on oil and natural gas production, called gross production.
Democrats said they won’t back a Republican plan to add a $1.50 tobacco tax unless Republicans increase the gross production tax on new wells from 2 to 5 percent.
“Their solution wasn’t to raise taxes on oil and gas producers, the billionaire oil and gas producers in the state of Oklahoma,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman. “Their solution was instead to raise gas prices for working families in the state of Oklahoma.”
Republicans have tied the tobacco tax to a $0.06 per gallon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. Democrats say there is no way they’ll back that.
“They’re going to play political games. They’re playing games with the lives of citizens of the state of Oklahoma,” Inman said.
Gov. Mary Fallin held a rare press conference chiding the legislature for not getting a deal done.
“We have a crisis. We have an emergency. We need to deal with it now," Fallin said. “I have told our legislators that next year is an election year and you think we’re going to fix the budget next year? God help us all.”
And even as the governor was ripping legislators, in the House of Representatives, they were listening to children sing.
News 9 did ask the governor whether she supported an increase in the gross production tax. She dodged the question, saying only she would look at any proposals.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives was not available for comment.