GOP-backed budget deal fails

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OKLAHOMA CITY — After a GOP-backed budget deal passed out of House and Senate budget committees, it appears that the measure will not have enough votes to pass the full House.

House Bill 1035, which included a tax on cigarettes, a motor vehicle fuel tax, and an additional tax on 3.2 beer, failed in the House as a revenue raising measure by a vote of 54 to 44. Revenue from the increase in the taxes was meant to help give a pay boost to teachers and state employees.

Prior to the House being called into recess Wednesday, Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka said he was "disappointed" in his colleagues across the aisle. Of the 54 votes for House Bill 1035, not a single one was from Democrats.

"We didn't ask all of the Democrats to vote for the bill. We didn't ask all the Republicans to vote for this bill. All we ask for is a 75 percent bipartisan effort," said Speaker McCall.

McCall maintained the GOP did everything they could to compromise, including adding an increase to gross production tax onto the calendar for a vote.

"I have given them [Democrats] what they asked for, for what they said they’re holding out for," he said. "If this measure passed, I guaranteed a vote on House Bill 1009, which is Representative [Scott] Inman’s filed bill on GPT at 5 percent for 36 months."

Representative Cory Williams, D-Stillwater says he doesn't buy the argument Republicans have done everything they can. The two leaders were involved in a heated debate in press gallery above the House floor on Wednesday, with Williams claiming the entire plan was part of "political theatre".

"For the Speaker to say that’s he’s done everything he can, well he’s either a reckless leader or he’s actually very disingenuine and you can pick one of the two. I don’t care," said Representative Williams. "He's right on one thing. This is BS."

On the floor Wednesday, there were plenty of questions and debate from lawmakers.

"Here we are again, politics front and center," said Representative Pat Ownbey, R-Ardmore. "Pretty well-divided amongst political lines, meanwhile in the real world…the people of this great state, prepare for the worst."

Because the measure did receive more than 51 votes in the House on Wednesday, it could be up for a vote by Oklahomans on the next ballot. The House also reserved the right to revisit it.

House leaders will reconvene Thursday morning at 10 a.m. for discussions on teacher pay raise. There is also a Senate budget committee meeting set for Thursday.