OKLAHOMA CITY – As time continues to tick away on the state’s budget clock deadline, filling the state’s gaping budget hole is seeming to be a monumental task as sides in the house become entrenched on funding sticking points.
On Wednesday, Governor Mary Fallin, R-Oklahoma, held a press conference pressing the need for partisan politics to stop.
“The time to act is now, we must fix our budget,” Fallin said. “I had my plan out there as governor, where is your plan?”
A plan, proposed during her state of the state address earlier this year, called for eliminating corporate income tax, grocery tax, while taxing cigarettes, motor fuel and more than 100 services, like haircuts.
During the governor’s roughly 15 minute speech in the capitol's Blue Room Wednesday, Fallin placed some of the blame on online shopping, a downturn in the energy sector and low oil and gas prices.
But with a budget passage deadline of May 26, Fallin threatened to veto any budget bill that comes to her desk that doesn't address the state's needs and call for a special session. She also singled out legislators for not bringing forward legislation to fill the $878 million budget shortfall.
“Zero, nothing has come to my desk,” she said after drawing a “$0” on a poster board. “Other than have some minor fee increases. No substantial measures to solve our budget crisis and ladies and gentlemen.”
“While we appreciate the fact that she’s upset and concerned about the current state of the budget,” said Democratic House Minority Leader Scott Inman Wednesday afternoon, after Fallin’s press conference, “my caucus and I have been upset and concerned about the state of the budget for the last six years, and all (Governor Fallin’s) done is cut more taxes for her wealthy friends.”
The Del City representative called on the governor to offer up her own plan, one that includes raising the state’s oil and gas gross production tax.
"We've offered up the gross production tax, to help with the cigarette tax, she's offered nothing – and in today`s press conference – she spoke for a long time, and never offered up one real solution."
In 2014, the state cut oil and gas production taxes from seven to two percent. Early last month, some oil and gas producers called for legislators to increase the tax, putting it back on par with other oil-producing states.
The state’s currently in its third consecutive budget shortfall and second straight revenue failure.
So how did the state get into the position it's currently in?
“Because we gave away the revenue base,” said State Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang. "And that`s on us. We did."
Through the lowering of the gross production tax, income tax and wind farm tax credits.
The appropriations and budget committee chair says HB 2365, which would raise taxes on cigarettes and motor fuel is just one part of a budget package she's put forward. But with Democrats dead-set against the motor fuel tax and against the cigarette tax, if a gross production tax increase isn't on the table, Osborn says "we are at a true stopping ground."
"At the end of the day, none of us are going to get exactly what we want," Osborn said Wednesday evening after session adjourned. "So to hold up it will only be on gross production tax will end up ruining state services for every citizen in the state."