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Oklahoma House of Representatives pass budget in final hours of session

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The House of Representatives passed the budget bill mere hours before the session ended.

It passed by a vote of 57-42 but not before about 2 and a half hours of intense debate and questions.

"This is the least transparent budget process we have ever had," said Representative Eric Proctor (D) District 77.

"We had the most open and transparent budget process in the history of this state," countered Representative Leslie Osborn (R) District 47, Chair of the Budget and Appropriations Committee.

Members contradicted one another and insulted one another, each accusing the other side of playing dirty.

"I agree with the chairwoman when she says 'this is as good as it gets.' This is as good as it gets. Maybe a little less transparent this year. But overall, same box of fecal matter," said Representative Cory Williams (D) District 34.

"So what we have here ladies and gentlemen is a situation of the democrats handing us a big pile of horse crap," said Representative John Bennett (R) District 2.

Democrats warned that they believe this budget will not stand in the courts.

"You don't have to vote for a budget that's filled with unconstitutional measures that are going to put us back into special session maybe next month, maybe the following month, maybe September," said Minority Leader, Scott Inman.

Republicans said it was nothing short of a miracle that they came up with a budget that doesn't cut core agencies.

"Is this budget perfect? No, by no means it's not. But it is what we have this year. It funds core functions of government," said Representative John Pfeiffer (R) District 38.

"I'm certainly going to vote no on this. If this is the best we can do and if this is anything short of a miracle, God bless us," said Representative Regina Goodwin (D) District 73.

That balanced budget couldn't happen though without a yes vote on the cigarette fee.

"A lot of smokers cause a lot of problems we have to pay for. We have to pay for! We have to get those dollars back somewhere," said Rep. Osborn.

"You all know as well as I do that what you're trying to do by passing a significant revenue raising measure, not in the last 5 days of session, but literally in the last 5 hours of session, so that your budget will balance, is unconstitutional," said Rep. Inman.

The cigarette fee passed by a vote of 51-43.

Democrats say it will be challenged because the legislature is barred from hearing revenue raising measures in the last 5 days of session and any new tax has to pass by a three fourths majority.

Governor Fallin says she will sign the budget bill and if any measures passed this week are deemed unconstitutional, she'll call lawmakers back in for a special session.

"If the legislators say I don't want to come back into special session, I tried to get them back in this past fall for teacher pay raise and they told me no, I don't want to come back in. So if they tell me they don't want to come back in, we'll just have to have automatic cuts, it'll be across the board by the way," said Governor Fallin.