Stalled: Budget plan that includes gross production tax increase stalls in committee

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OKLAHOMA CITY — House leaders say a bill that was similar to a revenue raising measure that was struck down earlier this week stalled in a committee.

On Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin announced that an agreement had been reached to fill the $215 million deficit.

House Bill 1035 included a tax on cigarettes, a motor vehicle fuel tax, and an additional tax on beer while giving a pay boost to teachers and state employees.

On Wednesday, the measure failed to receive the necessary 76 votes to pass the House, finishing with a final vote of 54- 43.

However, the Oklahoma Senate passed a resolution Thursday, requesting the House to include a 4% gross production tax on new oil and gas wells onto that bill.

Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Oklahoma City, says a bill that was discussed Friday afternoon at the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget meeting included both the tax increases from House Bill 1035 and an increase to gross production taxes.

I think some people believe that with the additional element in there that it’s worth exploring that option. I’m very much a ‘no’. I was a no on the other bill. I’m even more on this one,” Rep. Calvey said.

Lawmakers at the Capitol during special session.

House Democrats have made it clear that they will not support a measure without a GPT deal.

Democratic Rep. Eric Proctor told reporters Thursday that House Democrats may support the bill if it included a 4% GPT for 12 months.

“The difference between 36 months at 4% to 12 months at 4% is over a $100 million annually that could be invested in educational, criminal justice, and public safety,” said Rep.Proctor.

Senate Majority Leader Greg Treat says a 4% GPT would generate about $15 million a year.

“That’s the reason we left it out of our package. It’s not a lot,” Treat said. “4 percent is where we were at the end of last session. 4 percent is what we have talked about for a long time. 4 percent is what the Senate Republican Caucus has been comfortable with for a while. We are not comfortable going higher than that.”

During Friday’s meeting, the bill ended in a stalemate after 11 representatives voted in favor of the bill, while 11 voted against it.

The vote was split with just one Democrat voting in favor of the measure, while five others voted against it. On the Republican side, 10 voted in favor, while six were against the measure. Two representatives didn’t vote.

House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace and Rep. Chris Kannady released the following statement to clarify why they didn’t vote.

“We decided that the bill should remain the property of the committee until there is sufficient bipartisan support to give us confidence that it could pass on the House floor. We felt it was best to push the pause button and discuss with our caucus the best option for moving forward.”

Oklahoma Public Employees Association released the following statement:

“Oklahomans want a diverse and fair plan to improve state revenue and lawmakers are failing to deliver. The House of Representatives must pass a plan to fund core services and truly create that path forward they claim to support. Too many life-saving services are dependent on this funding. House members are playing politics while Oklahomans struggle, “ said Sterling Zearley, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association. “Lawmakers failed during the regular session and they are failing now. We will work to ensure that voters remember this debacle when they go to the polls.”