House fails to pass Republican state funding package with deadline days away

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma House of Representatives failed to pass a Republican-backed budget funding package with just two days left until the state's budget deadline.

The bill was part of a roughly $400 million package that House and Senate Republican leadership and Gov. Mary Fallin rolled out as a "compromise" Tuesday afternoon, much to the surprise of House Democrats who quickly called the "deal" nothing more than grandstanding, as the state tries to fill an $878 million budget hole.

"We are not voting it down because of big tobacco. We're not voting it down because we don't want to see revenue come to the state to fund teacher's pay, and healthcare and roads and bridges," said House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, on the house floor late Tuesday evening. "We're voting it down because this isn't the shared solution we need."

All house Democrats voted against HB 2414, which would have raised the state's cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack, the motor fuel tax by $0.06 per gallon and reduced the duration of tax breaks for oil and gas wells from 36 months to 18 months, while keeping the gross production tax at two percent.

Some Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure. Money from the bill would have partially funded a teacher pay raise for just one year.

"We should be fiscally responsible and fund core functions of government," said Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw, who voted against the bill. "Education, public safety, healthcare, transportation at appropriate levels and cut out the fat out of state government."

"So we can talk all day about how we've got a 'spending problem,'" said Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang, during debate. "Really? We can't even do adoption subsidies anymore."

"I fear this bill is going to go down," said Rep. Scott Martin, R-Noble. "But at least I will have had my chance to vote for something."

Democrats have long said that any tax increases, like on motor fuel, are non-starters. Prior to the vote, Democrats vowed to block the bill as Republicans have refused to increase the rate at which oil and gas wells are taxed.

The house has until Friday to pass any revenue raising measures.