Monday, after frittering away a regular session and a not-so-special session recess that would have made the pre-K kids at Will Rogers proud, Gov. Mary Fallin and the Republican legislative failureship proclaimed their solution to their self-inflicted budget crisis.
Much of the plan trotted out by Fallin, Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz and House Speaker Charles McCall is similar to a proposal Fallin’s offered nearly three weeks ago – one which Democrats agreed to two weeks ago. They want an additional $1.50 tax on every pack of cigarettes sold, a six cent per gallon tax increase on fuel and increased taxes on alcoholic beverages.
The major difference between Monday’s plan and the governor’s original suggestion is that the Gross Production Tax on the oil and gas industry would stay at its current, minuscule two percent and not be raised to the still-below-national-average of five percent that Fallin originally floated. Rumors were rife over the weekend about irate phone calls and letters, whines and complaints from the oil moguls who loot this state’s resources with Republican collusion that they just couldn’t handle that five percent GPT – to be applied only to new production – though fair extraction taxes have not stopped drilling in other states.
While Fallin, Schulz and McCall were patting themselves on the backs for protecting the only constituency that really matters to Republicans, Democratic Rep. Emily Virgin observed on Facebook, “Capitol Republicans just announced a revenue plan that asks you to foot the entire bill without asking big oil to pay one cent more….Their plan spends every dollar that it raises and does nothing for the budget hole we are inevitably facing next session…. “I will be voting no on this plan because I do not think it is moral or equitable to ask low and middle income Oklahomans to bear the burden of funding government while giving big oil a pass.”
Also getting a pass would be the only Oklahomans rich enough to benefit from Republican economic policies. The governor’s initial proposal called for a slight income tax hike for those earning more than $250,000 and another small bump for people making more than $500,00 a year. That proposal was also missing from Monday’s announcement, meaning people earning $16,000 will continue to pay the same tax rate as those earning $16 million. In the past, Speaker McCall has insisted that he needed some Democrats to cross the aisle to meet Oklahoma’s anti-tax increase restrictions. I’m not sure where he thinks he’ll be getting them this time. Perhaps Monday’s announcement is only the “dog and pony show” that Rep. Virgin called it, a chance for GOP failureship to claim that they have a plan that bad old Democrats are stalling.
What they have is a bad old plan that establishes indubitably that GOP priorities are the protection of the wealthiest among us at the expense of everybody else.
Or, as Democratic Rep. Eric Proctor told KOCO-TV, “I don’t think the people of Oklahoma are going to buy that we need to raise taxes on gasoline to protect big oil.”
(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)