“We absolutely must do better,” Oklahoma representative calls out colleagues after bill passes

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OKLAHOMA CITY – A tax credit that is meant to help the poorest Oklahomans is on the chopping block.

Oklahoma lawmakers have one week to create a budget for next year while facing a $1.3 billion shortfall.

Following the announcement of the budget shortfall, several state agencies’ budgets were cut.

Public schools are having their budgets slashed by millions, causing some districts to fire teachers and cancel popular programs just to stay below the red line.

The Oklahoma Department of Human Services learned its budget would be cut by $100 million, which agency leaders said may force them to reduce services that help keep some elderly Oklahomans out of nursing homes.

Programs that deal with child care licensing and child support services will also be reduced.

Now, lawmakers have seven days to come up with a budget for the next year.

Early Friday morning, the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to make the Earned Income Tax Credit non-refundable for the 355,000 low-income Oklahomans who receive the tax break.

The House voted 51-45 for the Senate-passed measure and sent it to Gov. Mary Fallin to be signed into law.

The vote occurred at 12:24 a.m. Friday after House members suspended a rule that requires them to adjourn by midnight.

Officials say the measure will increase state income tax collections by about $29 million in 2017.

However, not all the representatives are happy with the decision.

Rep. Cyndi Munson posted her thoughts about the vote on Facebook, calling on other lawmakers to do more.

“Last night, in the MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, life just became even tougher for those who are doing everything they can to keep their head above water. The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to pass SB1604 by a vote of 51-45 to end the earned Income Tax Credit for working families. Again, in the middle of the night, when hardly anyone is watching, a bill that will impact SO MANY Oklahomans in a negative way passed. It happened while they were sleeping, working the night shift, or gearing up for an early morning shift. There were no lobbyists in the House lobby pulling us off of the floor to beg us to vote against the measure,” she wrote.

Munson says the Earned Income Tax Credit will impact over 3,000 of her constituents alone.

“The decisions made here impact us all and we cannot stay silent nor can we be stuck in ideological thinking. We absolutely must do better,” she wrote.

Munson wasn’t the only representative to speak out about the decision.

However, supporters of the measure say it was necessary to help fix the $1.3 billion shortfall.