Lawmakers Expected To Discuss Tax Increases

Friday, May 13th 2016, 3:21 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

The legislature started out with a $1.3 billion budget deficit. Last week, lawmakers identified about $200 million in tax credits that they're eliminating.

This week, they identified another $175 million. That brings the budget deficit down to about $925 million.

The Senate passed a measure to cut the tax credit for at risk oil and natural gas wells, saving about $133 million and the House of Representatives seems on board with it.

5/12/16 Related Story: OK Lawmakers Looking For Ways To Close Budget Deficit

"The at risk credit was put in place to hopefully incentivize producers to keep producing oil from these wells at a time when our country needed a supply of oil,” said Senator Jeff Hickman (R) Speaker of the House.

That bill would bring the deficit down to about $792 million.

Next week, the legislature could discuss a gas tax. A 10-cent increase could bring in about $280 million.

"If we do look at a fuel sales tax increase it would be price indexed so that when the wholesale price of gasoline went over a certain price and gasoline started getting more expensive it would come off,” said Hickman.

A plan for a one-cent sales tax to fund education will be on the ballot in November. That would raise about $615 million annually to help fund a pay raise for Oklahoma teachers. 

Insiders say plans to move thousands off Medicaid are dead in the water. So, democrats say the legislature has to accept federal dollars to bridge the gap. The feds would match state dollars nine to one, so a $100 million state investment becomes a billion dollars.

"It seems like no one is stepping up in this building to help our citizens and we need to do a better job,” said Representative Mike Shelton (D) District 97.

Lawmakers are still at odds over how much to borrow. The governor has said she wants to borrow up to $500 million. Legislators say that's way too much, and the governor has been silent on whether she's willing to change that figure or accept federal dollars.