Oklahoma budget fix fails in House
DALLAS – A budget deal designed to cover a $215 million revenue gap in the current fiscal year failed to win passage in the Oklahoma House Tuesday.
Lawmakers are meeting in a special session called by Gov. Mary Fallin after the state Supreme Court struck down a $1.50 per pack cigarette fee enacted in the last week of the regular session. The state constitution forbids passage of revenue-raising measures in the final week of a legislative session.
The budget agreement between Fallin and her fellow Republican legislative leaders included the $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax, a six-cent tax increase on gas and changes to the way Oklahoma taxes low-point beer and cigars. It would have covered much of the budget shortfall while still requiring the Legislature to make budget cuts.
The bill needed three-fourths support of the House, but failed by a vote of 54-44. Minority Democrats joined 15 Republicans in opposition.
Democrats challenged the gas tax, the lack of a gross production tax increase and necessary budget cuts.
“Do you honestly feel this is a fair bill, to tax everyday, working Oklahoma families?" asked Rep. Matt Meredith, D-Tahlequah.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, questioned why the Legislature should vote for a revenue bill that would still require budget cuts. Inman on Tuesday announced he would not run for governor.
Since Fallin announced the plan on Monday, Democrats criticized the proposed legislation because it did not raise gross production taxes on oil and gas companies. Republicans who opposed the plan objected to raising taxes rather than cutting spending.
Fallin said the plan would “help fill our budget hole for the current fiscal year as well as put Oklahoma on a more stable budget path and allow us to address the funding of core services going forward.”