OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma House and Senate Democrats joined forces on Thursday afternoon over concern for the state’s budget process.
“We stand here today asking the people of Oklahoma to demand better. You deserve better. You deserve to know exactly where your tax dollars are going,” said Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman.
Oklahoma democratic leaders are frustrated over the state’s budget process, saying something needs to change.
”We feel like open and transparent means not only is your legislature entitled to see the numbers and be part of the budgetary process but, more importantly, the public is entitled to that,” said Sen. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City.
Democrats argued there wasn’t enough time to absorb the GOP’s state budget proposal before being told to vote on it.
“The priorities expressed in the budget were not for the people of Oklahoma. They were for corporations. They were for businesses. They weren’t for Oklahomans who have suffered over the past year from the economic and health effects of the pandemic,” Virgin said.
The budget was unveiled just one week ago and provides tax relief cuts in personal and corporate taxes, boosts education funding and sets aside money for the rainy day fund.
“We’re sending a message to the world that Oklahoma is open for business,” said Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. “It is a good budget and it’s good for the people of Oklahoma, and I think you see that with 82 yes votes on the board.”
It easily passed the house on Tuesday, but all Democrats voted “no.”
Democratic legislators say the public deserved time to see and discuss what is being done with their tax dollars.
As for next year, Democrats hope to keep this from happening again.
“It is my caucus’ intent next year to run bills, and the bills we’re gonna run are bills that are gonna specifically make this budgetary process more open and transparent,” Floyd said. “Is there an appetite for it? I don’t know. I hope there is. I hope that we’d want to treat every citizen of Oklahoma with the same dignity of at least giving them enough notice to review laws that are about to affect their lives and the lives of their children.”
House Speaker Charles McCall sent KFOR the following statement in response to the democrats’ press conference:
“Oklahomans are interested in what is in the budget, and this budget was the most comprehensive in recent memory thanks to record school funding and transformational investments in key priorities that won it support from the vast majority of House members elected by Oklahomans. It is true Democrats did not support this or any recent budget, but we are proud of what is in it and believe Oklahomans are, too.”CHARLES MCCALL, R-ATOKA, HOUSE SPEAKER
The budget is supposed to be heard on the Senate floor this afternoon. If it’s passed there, it will then head to the governor’s desk.