Political Parties Clash Over State Budget Plan

Monday, May 1st 2017, 6:50 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

Republicans pitched a plan to raise the taxes on gasoline, diesel fuel and tobacco without raising the tax on oil and natural gas production. They’ll need Democrats to be on board to pass the plan, but Democrats say no way.

The Republicans' plan would raise $340 million and save the state $50 million. That’s less than half of the state's $878 million budget shortfall. Democrats said they won’t back the plan without an increase in the tax on oil and natural gas production, known as gross production

“Until there’s a real legitimate discussion about gross production tax increases, we will not support a gas tax,” said Democratic Rep. Scott Inman, House Minority Leader.

Republicans did offer to cut tax breaks for oil producers saving the state $50 million.  

Democrats said that’s not enough, and Republicans are balancing the budget on the backs of the poor.

“Does your bill not further illustrate a shifting of the tax burden from the most wealthy Oklahomans to middle class families and the working poor as we’ve done for the past decade in this state?” asked Rep. Eric Proctor, D-Tulsa.

“I don’t believe that everyone that buys gas and diesel in the state is indigent. I believe that that affects every socioeconomic class. I don’t know that we can say that everyone that smokes cigarettes is in a certain class,” Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Canadian County, said in response.

"It is your choice and your caucus’s choice whether or not you want to continue to shift the tax burden,” Proctor countered.  

“We will close rural hospitals. We will close mental health services down. If that’s what you want, and if that’s what you think it means to be a good, conservative Republican or a good person that just wants to thwart everything because you won’t get the one thing you wanted under the candy cane and Christmas tree then vote against it,” Osborn replied.

The bill now goes to the House floor where it will need 76 votes to pass, and that can’t happen without some Democratic votes.