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Time still ticking on state budget deal

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Another day of the legislative session is over, and there is still no budget deal.

Although, the majority and minority leaders of both parties were meeting with the governor late Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday night, the only significant revenue raising measure to be voted on this session failed.

House Bill 2414 would have raised taxes on cigarettes, gas and diesel fuel and shortened the amount of time for tax breaks on oil and gas wells.

"I couldn't vote for the highest tax increase in Oklahoma history," said Representative Dale Derby, one of 20 Republicans who voted against the bill.

The Democratic caucus also voted against it.

Eight of the 20 Republicans who voted it down were freshmen.

"Either you had to vote it down because your district was a hard no on cigarette tax or your district was a hard no on fuel tax. So, I think a lot of people just stuck to their guns and, instead of voting for party politics, they voted for their district," said Representative Tess Teague, a freshman Republican.

Nothing significant coming out of the House floor Wednesday except discussion on more money going out.

A vote passed to transfer money from the rainy day fund to the ad valorem reimbursement fund for schools.

It's a promise made by the state to certain corporations, including wind energy, to pay their taxes.

"It's a commitment by the state of Oklahoma in law that we will reimburse that money. The number continues to grow. And, we don't have enough money to pay it, so we've gotta come into the budget and come up with it, and that's what it is and it's $72 million," said Representative Earl Sears.

Renewed discussions on Wednesday afternoon between the parties mean a deal could be coming soon.

Many members are confident they can get the job done.

"There's actually more time than one would think to get stuff done. And, yes, I think there is time to get a budget done, and I'm confident that there will be," said Representative Kevin Calvey.

House members were told to expect long days Thursday and Friday but they would not have to be in session over the weekend.