Legislators Discuss Budget Crisis At State Capitol Thursday

Thursday, January 28th 2016, 5:58 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

Starting next week, the capitol will be packed as lawmakers work to bridge an estimated one billion dollar budget gap.

Legislators on both side of the issue are vowing bi-partisan cooperation, but News 9’s Aaron Brilbeck says it didn’t sound like it Thursday afternoon.

There is one thing both sides can agree on; budget cuts are going to cut deep.

“The people of Oklahoma will be saddled with the worst budget for things that we care most about like children, education, healthcare, senior citizens and veterans,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman. 

But minutes after vowing to work with his Republican counterparts, Inman was quick to blame GOP lawmakers for the state's budget woes by offering billions of dollars in tax cuts, often without even knowing whether those cuts do anything to increase business or improve the state's economy. 

“We’ve got to learn from our mistakes, the self-inflicted wounds that caused us this budgetary crisis.” Inman said.

Republican lawmakers said don't blame tax cuts; blame a drop in revenue because of the low cost of oil. 

“That’s absolutely wrong” House Speaker Jeff Hickman said in response to Inman’s comments, “The tax cuts are not responsible.”

Governor Mary Fallin echoed the response. “I still believe that letting people keep more of their hard earned money…is good public policy.”

During her State of the State address Monday, the governor plans to detail her ideas for the budget as well as other issues, like her plan to give teachers a raise without raising the sales tax.

Teacher raises have been a top issue for a lot of lawmakers. But democrats say that should have been done years ago during good economic times, not now during the budget crisis. 

“The speaker; the governor and the pro tem(pore) need to be asked a question,” Inman said, “If you all are concerned about cutting education today because the price of oil is under $30 a barrel, why in the world did you cut education when the price of oil was a hundred dollars a barrel just a few years ago?”