Are secret budget negotiations underway?

Gov. Mary Fallin is denying published reports that she is close to make a deal with Democrat lawmakers for a $1,000,000,000.00 tax hike package.

The McCarville Report in Oklahoma City reported last Thursday that Fallin was meeting with House Minority Leader Scott Inman to iron details of a tax increase. Fallin would need Democrat support to vote in any new tax because it would require at least 75 percent of the votes.

McCarville reported that the deal being discussed included two forms of a tax increase on tobacco – one was $1 a pack which would raise $171 million and a second was $1.50 per pack to raise $257 million annually. Also in the package was a 6-cent per gallon gasoline tax, which would net around $170 million per year.

McCarville reported that other tax increase proposals included a “wind sales tax” ($20 million a year); a “cable sales tax” ($65 million a year); an “itemized deductation cap” ($100 million a year); and a “biennial vehicle registration” (generating $61 million). Another proposal is an income tax increase to 5.5 percent for anyone making more than $80,000 a year and to 6 percent for anyone making more than $200,000 a year.

Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said the governor’s office is talking with Democrats and Republicans and looking at a range of tax plans but that they are not even close to a deal.

During the session, House Democrats almost always refused to vote for any tax increases. Four bills to hike cigarette taxes never reached a floor vote. A bill that labeled a $1.50 cigarette tax hike was passed in the last week when it was labeled a “fee” but the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that action unconstitional.

Even though many self-described conservative Republican lawmakers voted for the cigarette tax, it would seem difficult to get a huge tax increase through the GOP-controlled House and Senate should Fallin call a special session.

“There is never a shortage of rumor and innuendo surrounding negotiations at the Capitol, so I will add some facts to the discussion,” said House Speaker Charles McCall, R- Atoka. “First, there is no way House Republicans will ever pass a billion dollars in tax and revenue increases to fill a $200 million budget hole. Such a plan would be dead on arrival. Second, Minority Leader Scott Inman has no interest in negotiating in good faith with the governor or anyone else. He has failed at every turn to deliver Democrat votes for any significant revenue package. He has offered conflicting demands in public and private negotiations. The fact is, Scott Inman is only interested in campaign issues for his governor’s race, not real solutions that will help Oklahoma.”