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Oklahoma state budget deadline looms, but no clear plan in place

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- The budget battle at the Oklahoma Capitol continues.

The deadline to find new revenue to pass a balanced state budget is creeping closer. Leaders from both parties are asking for support, but there are not many plans in place to fix the crisis.

“There's no question we're moving very quickly now into the meat of the budget crisis,” said House Speaker Charles McCall.

“With each passing day, with each passing week, the budget crisis only gets bigger and bigger,” said House Minority Leader Scott Inman.

As the clock continues to count down toward a deadline for a balanced budget, the only consistent thing coming from the Capitol is blame from both sides.

“To date, the House Republicans continue to promise that they understand the problem and they're trying to solve the problem. But they've done nothing to actually move forward in making progress in solving the budget woes,” Inman said.

“What’s frustrating to our caucus is the fact every week we read that the Minority Caucus is changing their position on what they would vote for and what they have to have,” McCall said.

If a balanced budget isn't reached, there could be disastrous effects on state agencies, classrooms and state-run programs.

The Legislature has until May 29 to plug a nearly $900 million budget hole.

So far, lawmakers have already told state agencies to prepare for cuts.

Officials with the Department of Human Services says a potential 15 percent cut would cause "reductions to or elimination of entire programs."

Also, the Department of Public Safety says that kind of a cut would cause a "public safety crisis."

At this point, there isn't a decisive plan in place.

Democratic leaders say they have a plan in the works that would focus on raising taxes on some oil and natural gas companies.

“Take that gross production tax from the one to two percent they're paying now and move it immediately to 5 percent,” said Inman.

In 2014, the legislature passed a law that lowered the gross production tax on wells for the first three years from 7 percent to 2 percent.

Inman recently filed an amendment to a bill that says any new oil or gas wells three years or younger will immediately be taxed more. He estimates that cost to cover a third of the state's budget crisis.

“Our estimation, if you go from two to five percent, you'll bring in about $325 million,” Inman said.

At this point, it is unclear if that proposal will move forward.