Oklahoma budget agreement announced

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Falllin. File photo.

Oklahoma City – Governor Mary Fallin, Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz and House Speaker Charles McCall today reached an agreement adjusting the 2018 fiscal year budget that, among other things, helps fill the $215 million budget hole and puts Oklahoma on a more stable budget path, as well as provides a needed teacher pay raise.

The Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus reacted immediately to the Republican plan, saying in a statement that the deal is made "on the backs of Oklahoma workers while refusing to ask the oil and gas industry to pay their fair share."

If passed by the Legislature, 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.

Setting the Oklahoma budget has been a rocky road. See background at:
Oklahoma Legislature stumbles in search for new revenues
Senate GOP leader releases Oklahoma budget plan.

The Democratic response continued: “Since we unveiled our Restoring Oklahoma Plan last March, the House Democratic Caucus has been clear that we will not support a budget deal that balances the state’s checkbook on the backs of Oklahoma workers while refusing to ask the oil and gas industry to pay their fair share.

“It is obvious that this budget is meant to meet one objective, which is to find a way out of this budget shortfall without restoring the gross production tax on oil and gas wells. Instead of asking the oil and gas industry to pay a fair and just tax, Republican lawmakers would rather tax working class Oklahomans.

“We believe that offering teachers and state employees a pay raise while simultaneously raising their taxes to pay for the raise is both disingenuous and a terrible way to balance a budget. Our Caucus remains resolved that teachers and state employees deserve to be compensated fairly, but we will not support a plan that puts money in their right pocket just to take it back out of their left.

“As Republican lawmakers continue to play political games, Oklahomans are suffering due to cuts that are taking place to Oklahoma’s various health care agencies. The House Democratic Caucus is demanding the Republican Caucus halt this plan, which only seeks to raise taxes on working Oklahomans, and come back to the table to build a budget that works for all Oklahomans."

Copyright The Gayly – October 23, 2017 @ 4:30 p.m. CDT.