Oklahoma lawmakers speak out against GOP-driven deal unveiled by Governor Fallin

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OKLAHOMA CITY – More lawmakers are speaking out against a GOP-driven deal unveiled by the governor, including members of the Republican party.

Governor Mary Fallin announced Monday an agreement had been reached adjusting the 2018 fiscal year budget, which would fill the $215 million deficit. According to Fallin, the plan puts Oklahoma on a more stable and sustainable path.

Representative Roger Ford, R-Midwest City took to Facebook saying the plan “will bomb on Wednesday,” adding the vote will fail.

“You’re confused? So am I, and I think so is the general public,” Ford told News 4 on Tuesday. “To me, it feels like something that was thrown together to get out of here quickly and it doesn’t fix the problem. It may be a short-termed fix if it worked, which I don’t think it will because I don’t think it will pass.”

If passed by the legislature, the governor’s office said the agreement would:

  • Place a $1.50 tax on a package of cigarettes.
  • Provide for a 6-cent fuel tax increase.
  • Revise taxes on alcoholic beverages.
  • Restore the Earned Income Tax credit.
  • Provide for a $3,000 teacher pay increase, effective Aug. 1, 2018.
  • Provide for a $1,000 increase for state employees, effective Aug. 1, 2018. It does not pertain to higher education, legislators or constitutional officers, such as statewide elected officials and judges.

Taking no questions from reporters at the press conference, Fallin said it has been “very difficult” to find an agreement.

“We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. We have to find a resolution to close the $215 million budget gap and to put our state on a sustainable, stable path forward,” she said Monday. “We can’t keep having budget shortfalls year after after year.”

News 4 sent three emails to Fallin’s office within a 24-hour span. We asked questions including how many Republicans support the plan and why it did not include any mentioning of the gross production tax increase, which democratic leaders had asked for. We have not received any answers as of Tuesday evening.

Ford continued his disapproval by claiming the plan presented by Fallin does not represent the platforms either the Republican or Democrat party.

Representative Kevin Calvey, R-Oklahoma City said he does not support tax increases and will vote ‘no’ on the plan, but he does commend the state leadership for negotiating.

“I’d say let’s cut the waste because that’s what is fiscally right to do and that should be true whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or no matter what. Republicans traditionally have been the party that has been more fiscally conservative,” Calvey said. “Have you [state leadership] done audits on these various state agencies to find out if they’re spending money that they’ve been giving wisely?”

At Monday’s press conference, House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka said this is a plan the GOP believes Oklahomans want.

“People in our state have been telling us that they want a teacher pay raise. They want healthcare. They want good roads and bridges in this state,” he said.

The bill increasing fuel and cigarette taxes passed both the House and Senate budget committees Tuesday. It will go to a full house vote on Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m.