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Republican leaders consider millions in agency cuts after revenue package fails

OKLAHOMA CITY - Republican leaders are now considering millions in agency cuts after a revenue package failed to secure enough votes.

House Bill 1033, which was a part of the Step Up Oklahoma plan, called for increases to tobacco, motor fuel, wind energy and a 4 percent gross production tax.

The measure needed 76 votes to pass but failed 63 to 35.

Majority floor leader Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma said they are now looking at cuts between $40-$60 million in order to balance the remainder of the 2018 budget.

"What has become clear is that there isn’t a revenue package that can pass so, at this point, you’ve got to move forward with the money that you have," Echols said. "It’s going to have to be from all agencies. If we do nothing, it’s going to be from Healthcare Authority and Mental Health, two agencies that can’t absorb $40 million worth of cuts."

Becky Pasternik-Ikard, CEO of the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, said, while they have balanced their 2018 budget, they are currently experiencing some cash flow issues.

"We know March is going to be a little bit more difficult month. We expect some of the revenue that agency would normally receive to be in coming toward the end of the month," Pasternik-Ikard said.

Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman said House Democrats have said, all along, they would support a plan that raised revenue the "right way." According to Virgin, the plan voted on Monday night did not do that.

"It didn’t restore any of the failed income tax cuts over the few years that have led to several revenue failures, and it placed the burden of funding teacher pay raises on the backs of those who can least afford it," Virgin said.

Echols said lawmakers are in negotiations right now and, by the end of the week, they should know exactly where the cuts would come from.