House plan uses Rainy Day funding

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed several appropriations bills Monday to provide funding for three agencies affected by the $215 million budget shortfall.

The House approved House Bill 1081, which appropriates $23.3 million from the Rainy Day Fund to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, House Bill 1082, which appropriates $29.4 million to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, House Bill 1083, which appropriates $24.9 million to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and House Bill 1084, which appropriates $29 million to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. The appropriations will allow those agencies to continue to provide full services and programs through April 2018.

“What happened on the House floor Monday was a victory for the state of Oklahoma,” said State Rep. Sean Roberts. “Rainy Day Fund cash and $82 million in carryover funds should be used for circumstances exactly like the one in front of us. The stopgap allocations will allow lawmakers to spend the next few months identifying areas of government waste and drafting legislation to root out inefficiencies during the 2018 legislative session that are identified in performance audits. Monday’s votes are a step in the right direction and this conservative plan will allow the taxpayer to keep their own money while continuing to fund core services. I trust the Oklahoma Senate will also pass these bills that protect our taxpayers and fund necessary services. It is an honor to serve my constituents here at the state Capitol, and I will continue to fight for conservative principles.”

The Senate was scheduled to vote on the bills on Tuesday. The Tulsa Beacon goes to press on Tuesday and will have an update on that vote next week.

As of Monday, fiscal conservatives in the Oklahoma House prevailed in efforts to raise hundreds of millions in new taxes for Oklahomans.

The Senate, led by Republicans who favor higher taxes, failed to get a quorum Saturday and had to adjourn. The House followed suit.

For weeks, the Legislature has been spending $30,000 a day in a special session called by Gov. Mary Fallin for the purpose of permanently raising state taxes. The session was precipitated by the unconstitutional passage of a $1.50/pack cigarette tax increase during the regular session. The Oklahoma Supreme Court threw that tax out because it failed to have the required 75 percent votes for passage. The denial of the cigarette tax created an artificial $215 million budget hole.

Last Friday, the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget had a tie vote on a huge tax increase package and therefore it didn’t advance to the floor for a vote. That upset some senators who are anxious to raise some taxes permanently.

That plan would have raised cigarette taxes by $1.50/pack, hiked gasoline taxes by six cents a gallon, raised the gross production tax to 4 percent and added new taxes on beer.

The failed package promised a $3,000 a year pay raise for every teacher in the state but it went down the drain because Democrats refuse to vote for any tax increase that doesn’t include higher taxes for energy production.  In the meantime, agency heads around the state are blanketing the liberal media with horror stories of what will happen to state services should taxes not increase.

Fallin, who ran twice without saying she wanted to raise taxes, has been unable to accomplish anything in the special session.

“The legislation that came before the House of Representatives this morning was flawed from the beginning, and I stand firmly against it,” said Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Tulsa. “House Bill 1035 would have been the largest tax increase in a generation, placing the burden on low- and middle-income Oklahoma families. Conservative principles are clear: we need to cut government waste and protect core services. This bill was not conservative, and I am relieved dozens of lawmakers saw the fundamental problems with HB 1035. “Moving forward, I know agencies are anxious about what is to come. My suggestion is to use the $83 million in carryover funds from the previous fiscal year and cut $0.17 out of every $10 the government spends. Then, as our economy continues to rebound and money comes in above projections, we should appropriate the surplus to our core services. This is a conservative plan that protects Oklahomans without endangering our most vulnerable citizens.”

Fallin’s goal to raise taxes took another hit as the Oklahoma Supreme Court overturned another “fee” – this one for electric and hybrid cars.

“I’m disappointed with the Oklahoma Supreme Court striking down the registration fee for electric and hybrid vehicles,” Fallin said.

House Bill 1449 would have established a $100 fee for the registration of an electric vehicle and a $30 fee for a hybrid vehicle. Revenue from the fees, which was to have gone into effect Jan. 1, would have gone to the state’s highway construction and maintenance fund. The measure was projected to raise more than $506,000 for the current 2018 fiscal year, and $1.01 million for the 2019 fiscal year. The measure passed the House, 61-36, and the Senate, 29-11, but it was ruled a tax, not a fee, and would require a 75 percent approval vote for passage.

Gary Richardson, Republican candidate for Governor, praised the overturning of the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Fee that he challenged in the Oklahoma Supreme Court this summer.

“I am thankful that the State Supreme Court recognized that the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax Fee leveed on hybrid and electric vehicles was an illegal tax increase,” said Richardson.

Richardson referred to the ruling in favor of the Sierra Club, which challenged the same fee as Richardson did in his suit. “Oklahoma deserves a leader who puts their words into actions,” said Richardson.  “I am the only candidate for governor who even attempted to stop the tax increases and I’m not even an elected official like some of my opponents.  Imagine what will happen when I get elected as governor.”

Correction

In the November 2 issue of the Tulsa Beacon, it was reported that State Rep. Eric Proctor, Rep. Karen Gaddis and Rep. Regina Goodwin has voted for HB1035X. They actually voted against all versions of that bill.