Budget Deal Failure Leaves Cloudy Path Forward For Oklahoma

Nov 9, 2017

There was a lot of hope pinned on Wednesday's vote in the Oklahoma House.

For seven weeks, lawmakers have argued over how to fill a $215 million dollar budget hole. But a vote on a bill touted as a “grand bargain” failed.

Lawmakers have largely agreed to increase taxes on beer, tobacco and fuel. The biggest sticking point throughout the special session has been whether to raise taxes on oil and natural gas production.

There was some bipartisan support for those increases, but not enough to meet a 75 percent threshold needed to pass revenue bills.

Republican holdouts said it would hurt a vital industry and urged colleagues to focus on wasteful agency spending. Democrats who voted no, like Tulsa Representative Eric Proctor, said the bill was too easy on Oklahoma oil companies.

"We’re not in this mess because cigarettes are too cheap… or that the single mom in my district that drives to work doesn’t pay enough to the government for gasoline. We’re in this mess because this body has failed to take on billions of dollars in corporate welfare."

Before the vote, energy company workers rallied at the capitol to pressure lawmakers to vote no. Mark Miller was laid off during the recent oil downturn, but now works for Canary Drilling.

"We need to make sure the oil companies survive here in Oklahoma and the work continues to grow."

It’s unclear what’s next for Oklahoma’s budget debate. Governor Mary Fallin urged lawmakers to approve the bill. After it failed, she threatened to keep lawmakers in special session until Christmas.