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Oklahoma House could hear amended funding bill Wednesday after passing Senate floor

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma House’s budget committee has resurrected a funding bill, nearly identical to one which passed in the Senate.

House Bill 1054X passed by a vote 19 to 6 Tuesday and would add taxes on cigarettes, motor fuel, and low-percentage beer but also includes a 4% gross production tax (‘GPT’) on oil and gas wells. The language of this bill is identical to House Bill 1035X, which was amended and passed in the Senate on Monday.

“I think this is one of those cases where you’ve seen a shift in a couple of weeks where there’s been a lot of outcry from the public that says…we want you to move forward. You work for us, and we want to see you move forward,” said Rep. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City.

Rep. Dunnington voted in favor of the bill in committee despite opposition on certain parts.

“A tobacco tax, while I do think that will have great health benefits, is a tax that hits more of our poor citizens,” said Dunnington. “The fuel tax based on just income alone, the less that you earn, the more that you’re using for things like a fuel tax, because everybody drives.”

Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, tells News 4 he could get behind a 4% GPT but would not support anything higher.

“The energy sector is just now coming back in Oklahoma. There’s no question that jobs are being created. They’re hiring again in the oil patch, and I don’t want to do anything to throw that off balance,” explained Rep. Sears.

During the committee debate Tuesday, Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Oklahoma City spoke in opposition and called the entire measure a job killer.

“It raises the cost of raising capital to oil and gas producers and makes them less competitive,” said Rep. Calvey.

In a statement, Governor Mary Fallin commended committee chairman Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Agra and Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka for bringing the measure up for another vote.

"This bill allows us to address the funding of core services going forward. This also provides much-needed pay raises for public school teachers and includes pay raises for our hard-working state employees as well as tax relief for low-income Oklahomans," Governor Fallin said in a statement. "Let’s prove to Oklahomans that we can solve our difficult budget problem and move our state forward.”

The bill passed Tuesday will now be heard by the full House on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.