OKLAHOMA CITY – While lawmakers continue to work to come up with a budget, an Oklahoma group is throwing their support behind a proposal created by a group of citizens.
Last year, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled a $1.50-per-pack ‘cigarette fee’ was unconstitutional after lawmakers passed the revenue raising measure in the final five days of a legislative session without a 75 percent majority vote. The fee was expected to generate $215 million for several state agencies.
As a result, Gov. Fallin ordered lawmakers to head back to the Capitol during a special session to fix the budget shortfall.
For two months during the special session, legislators were unable to pass revenue bills out of the House of Representatives. Instead, their final plan was to use state cash and cuts to state agencies to fix the current budget hole.
However, Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed that plan and said that lawmakers would be called back to the Capitol for a second special session.
“We’re not going to fix things unless I force them to come back and get the job done,” said Fallin.
The second special session has been in recess since Dec. 22.
Earlier this month, a group of citizens and business leaders came together to announce the 'Step Up Oklahoma' plan.
Under the proposal, "Step Up Oklahoma" is advocating a plan that will affect taxes on the following:
- Motor fuels
- Wind-power generation
- Personal income tax
- Refundable income tax credits
- Gaming activities
- Gross production tax on energy companies.
"Currently, new wells are taxed at 2% for 36 months. This proposal would take all of those wells and raise them to 4% and all new wells after the affected date of legislation would be at 4% for 36 months and then 7% after that,” said Glenn Coffee, a business owner and group member.
The other part of the package consists of reform measures:
- Lower the supermajority threshold required in the Legislature to pass revenue-raising measures to 60%
- Establish a 'Budget Stabilization Fund'
- Revise term limits for legislators to 16 years
- Give the governor direct appointment power of the state's eight largest agencies, including the Corporation Commission, Labor Commission and Secretary of Education.
- Run the governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket
- Change the process of how a Supreme Court vacancy is filled by 'attracting the largest yet diversified pool of qualified candidates.'
- Create an independent budget office
- Grant voters at county level the authority to form their county government
- Revise state the budget to reflect all sources of revenue.
Now, it seems another group is throwing their support behind the 'Step Up Oklahoma' plan.
Members of the Oklahoma Cattlemen's Association voted to support the plan on Thursday afternoon.
“OCA members discussed at length the Step Up Proposal and voted to support it,” said Weston Givens, OCA President. “While there are certainly some specific pieces that are not related to beef cattle production, we very much like the accountability and transparency reforms as well as the streamlining of processes in the proposal. It makes sense to us to address state spending. Regarding the revenue proposals, while none of us like increased taxes, we do need safe roads and a strong and robust education system.”
The Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry says that beef cattle production is the largest sector of Oklahoma's agriculture economy.
“We acknowledge that Step Up is a broad proposal with many different pieces. It is also notable that Oklahoma, not just one industry, is pulling together for solutions,” Givens said. “Oklahoma Cattlemen are committed to having a seat at the table to do our part in finding solutions.”