The 3rd full week of Oklahoma’s 2017 Special Legislative Session has come and gone. The week began with hopeful signs of a bipartisan agreement as members met without convening in committees or on the floor so that these budget meetings are not costing the state any additional money.
On Sunday evening, October 8, four Republican House members, including Speaker McCall, his Majority Floor Leader and two others met with three Democratic legislators to forge a plan that might be acceptable to members from both parties in hopes that at least 76 members of the House of Representatives would support it.
What Speaker McCall and his leadership team proposed was a two part package that took some of the Governor’s Plan (Cigarette Tax) and three items from the Democrat’s Plan (Restore Gross Production Tax, Income Tax on High Wage Earners and Restore the Earned Income Tax Credit for Low Wage Earners) and added in some components to attempt to appease the Republican Caucus (Increase Fuel Tax by 6 cents per gallon and Eliminate the Wind Energy Sales Tax Exemption).
The first quid pro quo was basically that Republicans would vote to increase the higher earner income tax and restore the EITC if Democrats would vote to increase the Cigarette Tax. The second tradeoff was for the Republicans to vote to increase the Gross Production Tax on new wells if the Democrats would vote to allow sales tax to be imposed on Wind Energy and increase the Gasoline and Diesel Tax at the pump by 6 cents per gallon.
The plans when taken together would generate approximately $474 Million; enough to prevent additional cuts to state healthcare agencies and to allow teachers to be given a $1000 raise this year and another $1000 raise next year.
With all 28 members of the Democratic caucus on board, the Republican leaders undertook to secure assurances of support from at least 48 of the 72 members of the Republican caucus. Of course GOP caucus votes are held in secret and there is no “official” record, word began to slip out late Monday that Speaker McCall and Floor Leader Echols were having difficulty in getting sufficient members to support the plan.
According to online web blog NonDoc, a Freshman Republican had sent an email to her constituents that said that the Republican caucus had “discussed and voted on 27 different budget scenarios and none garnered more than 39 votes and some were as low as 8 votes.” Later reports indicated that 7 of the 27 budget scenarios did receive more than 39 votes, but that the highest vote tally was only 47 and that another Republican member, speaking on condition of anonymity, had claimed that the GOP caucus vote to increase the Gross Production Tax from 2 to 5 percent received approval from only about 38 of the 72 Republican members.
With Week Four of the Special Session beginning today, the capital will be closed for extensive electrical restoration; however, members will continue to meet informally in an attempt to find a recurring, sustainable revenue package to solve Oklahoma’s dire situation.
Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma in the House of Representatives. I will continue to keep you informed of any developments. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov