State Lawmakers Working On Budget; Not Reaching Agreements

Thursday, April 20th 2017, 7:34 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

State lawmakers wrapped up another week with little public movement on the nearly $900-million budget deficit, but legislative leaders say work is being done behind closed doors.

“We’re very much ahead of schedule on the budget,” said House Speaker Charles McCall (R), “There’s going to be a lot of activity going forward. A lot of measures to roll out.”

There has to be. The state budget hole is more than $870-million deep, and state leaders have borrowed hundreds of millions more just to pay the bills, leaving the rainy-day fund empty.

“When you put it all together there’s over 1.2 billion dollars that the house republicans have got to find to just keep things flat,” said Representative Scott Inman (D) House Minority Leader.

Republican leaders are considering an increase in the gas and diesel tax, but while there’s been discussion of increasing the tax on gas and oil production there may not be enough votes to get it done. Democrats say they won’t support a gas tax increase without an increase in the tax for oil producers.

“It’s immoral to look at the citizens of Oklahoma and say we’re going to raise gas taxes on you, middle class families, but we won’t raise taxes on billionaire corporations,” said Inman.

News 9 has also learned Republicans are considering borrowing $300-million to bridge the budget gap.

“I can’t say that that is a firm part of our budget plan but I can certainly confirm that there has been discussions,” said McCall.

Inman replied, “Our caucus will stand opposed to it and we hope that there are at least 25-members of the republican majority who are willing to adhere to their conservative principals and oppose it with us.”

All revenue raising measures, like tax increases, have to go through the house of representatives first and some democrats have to be on board.

The House Speaker said he will reveal a plan in the coming weeks to balance the budget and give teachers a raise.