OKLAHOMA CITY - Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb announced Thursday morning he was resigning from Governor Mary Fallin’s cabinet as the state’s Small Business Advocate.
Lamb said he could not support her proposed tax increases, saying the “proposal will adversely harm Oklahoma’s small businesses and families.”
Fallin has proposed taxing 164 different services that are not currently taxed.
“Since the 'State of the State,' I’ve heard from countless small businesses, and men and women and families that are concerned about these proposed tax increases,” Lamb said. “If we’re taxed as a service industry at 'x' percent, well, we can’t afford that. That’s not built into our budget, so we’ll have to pass that on to our customers. Who are the customers? Families in Oklahoma.”
The Democratic minority leader, Rep. Scott Inman, said Lamb’s resignation shows a leadership crisis in the Republican party.
“When the governor, the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the house and the pro tem of the senate cannot get all on the same page when it comes to filling this $900 million budget hole, we’ve got serious issues,” Inman said.
Inman said this may be the lieutenant governor’s way of separating himself from an unpopular tax proposal because he himself plans to run for governor.
Inman also said Lamb has been silent on the issue of taxes up until now.
“And, the first time that he speaks up is to throw the governor under the bus a few months before he may announce he’s running for governor. It looks pretty politically advantageous and not really courageous,” Inman said.
Lamb would not elaborate on his future political plans.
“This decision was made solely on behalf of small businesses and Oklahoma families,” he said.
Lamb’s resignation from Fallin’s cabinet does not affect his position as lieutenant governor.
On Thursday afternoon, Fallin's office released the following statement on Lamb's resignation:
“I was disappointed and surprised to learn from a press release that Lt. Gov. Lamb had decided to quit serving as a member of my Cabinet. I have always valued Todd’s independent voice. I valued it when we first came into office when we dealt with a similar financial crisis and I value his independent voice today. I’ve never been afraid to have dissenting voices at the table. I think the people of Oklahoma benefit from that. There will always be a seat at the table for his independent voice," Fallin said.
“Leading a state is never easy, especially when there are so many challenges and we are faced with a prolonged economic downturn. But through ideas, hard work, long hours and making tough decisions, we can find solutions to those challenges our state faces. We have to. As governor, I have provided a reality check of doing the same thing over and over with the structural deficits of our budget and expecting a different outcome. If we want to educate our children, a teacher pay raise and ensure the health and public safety of our citizens as well as improve our roads and bridges, we must fix the structure of our budget so we don’t keep having budget shortfalls and uncertainty.”
Other conservative lawmakers announced on Thursday they agree with Lamb's position on the proposed tax increase.
"Those of us in the legislature who are small business owners understand the devastating impact this would have on small businesses, the backbone of the Oklahoma economy, and on consumers," said State Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee. "We need to fight for those we represent and stop this tax increase dead in its tracks."
"Putting a massive, 1.7 billion dollar tax increase on Oklahomans will serve to hurt our economy just as it is beginning to recover, " said State Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow. "This approach is fundamentally flawed."
"Tax increases kill jobs. Just as families must trim their budgets when their income goes down, government should trim spending when revenue dips, instead of raising taxes. Too many politicians lack the courage to say NO to big-spending government bureaucrats," said Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Oklahoma City.
"Just three months ago, Oklahoma voters overwhelmingly voted down a $615,000,000 sales tax increase," said State Rep. John Bennett, R-Sallisaw. "That message should be heard loud and clear by the Governor and by legislative leadership: Oklahomans don't want more taxes."
"I am excited to see our conservatives being willing to make the tough decisions instead of taking the easy way out in taxes. We have got to deal with the tax credits and the spending for unnecessary functions of our Government. I fully support Todd Lamb and appreciate his bold stand," said State Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow.
"Last session, I vehemently fought against a service tax because it will add an incredible burden on our service industry. The Governor's proposal is asking our small business owners to work all day and then come home and spend another hour or two on unnecessary paperwork rather than spending time with their families. I applaud Lamb's decision," said Rep. Chuck Strohm, R-Jenks.
"Republicans opposed a similar Democrat plan in 2003, saying 'This is a job-killing proposal that would damage the weak Oklahoma economy,'" said State Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore. "What was true back then is true now, and Republicans should oppose this plan as well."