Capitol Insider: Special Session, ‘At The Altar’
Oklahoma House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City) unveiled on Thursday what he said was the largest bipartisan budget deal in nearly three decades. Later in the day, Gov. Mary Fallin announced in no uncertain terms that a deal had not been reached.
“If there’s only one person at the altar, there’s no marriage,” Fallin said.
“She invited us to the altar. We said yes. If she is having cold feet, the people of Oklahoma are in serious trouble,” Inman replied in a Tweet.
Inman branded his plan as the Bipartisan Oklahoma Plan in his press conference. He said it combined revenue-raising measures Republicans wanted with ones that Democrats wanted to come up with the deal.
"It's a plan that is not my plan…it's a plan that is not Governor Fallin's plan, not the Speaker of the House's plan nor is it the Pro Tem of the Senate's plan, but it's a combination of all the different ideas and concepts that each of the leaders in this building have called for," he said.
The plan includes a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax, six cent per gallon fuel tax increase, elimination of the sales tax exemption for wind energy, a series of taxes on luxury services items, increasing the gross production tax to 5 percent on new wells and removing income tax cuts on high earners.
Fallin put the idea that a grand bargain had been reached to bed in her own press conference later in the day.
"Let me just start out by stating bluntly, there is no budget deal," Fallin said. "First off, if I had reached a budget deal, I would have announced it."
eCaptiol news director Shawn Ashley told KGOU up until now, no one person seems to be in charge of negotiating a budget deal.
But he thinks Fallin’s press conference may have been a turning point.
“I think she was saying 'I'm now taking the reins' and will be leading these negotiations,” Ashley said. “She said she was disappointed that after two weeks of the special legislative session, nothing had been accomplished.”
Ashley also says a teacher pay raise appears to still be one the table.
Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, an insider's guide to Oklahoma politics policy and special sessions. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley who has been chasing the ups and downs of the state budget crisis for months.
Scott Inman : "The biggest bipartisan compromise legislation in 27 years."
Gov. Mary Fallin: "There is no budget deal. And I want to make that very clear."
Inman: "It's the only plan, the only bipartisan plan."
Fallin: "If there's only one person at the altar, there is no marriage."
Pryor: Shawn, negotiators have been talking but it's sounding like a game show, Deal or No Deal or a movie Groundhog Day. Where do the budget negotiations stand?
Shawn Ashley: Well, it's very much deja vu all over again. We have seen that they have yet to reach an agreement. They seem far apart on a number of important issues. And with two weeks gone in the special legislative session after they only met about two and a half days, really nothing's been accomplished.
Pryor: Are there any ideas for fixing the budget crisis that you can say with certainty, 'the House, Senate and governor agree on this?'
Ashley: About the only thing you can say is that they agree that something needs to be done. In terms of the proposals that they will use to address the budget hole that resulted from the tobacco cessation fee being found unconstitutional, they have yet to come down on the same page.
Pryor: House Democrats have said there is a bipartisan agreement and actually trotted out some ideas that they said everyone could agree on.
Ashley: And then the governor came forth and said there is no deal. House Minority Leader Scott Inman outlined a plan that would include increasing the tobacco tax. It would also include increasing the motor fuel tax and making some changes to the income tax and of course a 5 percent gross production tax on new wells. But at the end of the day, Gov. Mary Fallin said that that was in fact not an agreement, that she had not agreed to that and the other parties involved in this process have not agreed as well.
Pryor: So, who is driving negotiations?
Ashley: Everyone seems to have their own plan. I would not say that any one group has controlled negotiations thus far.
Pryor: Sometimes nuance is important. The governor made a potentially telling statement on Thursday.
Ashley: I think she did. I think those of us in the press sort of missed this comment because we were reacting to her saying that there's not a deal. I think she was saying 'I'm now taking the reins' and will be leading these negotiations. She indicated that she had not made a deal with House Democratic Leader Imnan and that if a deal was reached, she would be the one to announce it, that she would be taking that lead in doing so.
Pryor: It's often said politicians think about the next election, statesmen think about the next generation. Are you seeing any signs of statesmanship growing at the Capitol?
Ashley: If it's happening it's happening behind the scenes. We're not seeing it out front or at least we weren't until Gov. Mary Fallin made her statement where again, she seemed to take the reins in the budget negotiations. She said she was disappointed that after two weeks of the special legislative session, nothing had been accomplished. I think she is now prepared to lead those negotiations and lead them toward a resolution of this problem.
Pryor: Shawn, besides filling the $250 million budget hole, what else appears to be a priority now?
Ashley: One thing that remains out there seems to be a teacher pay raise. In Gov. Mary Fallin statement, she specifically referenced that in terms of filling the budget hole, putting the budget on a more stable path and providing a teacher pay raise.
Pryor: The state continues to have budget problems. But according to state treasurer Ken Miller the Oklahoma economy keeps showing strength.
Ashley: Ken Miller reported, as he does each month, on the total state collections and what we saw in those numbers, that for the sixth consecutive month they have improved over the numbers of one year ago. We saw increases in income tax, gross production taxes and sales taxes. The one area where tax collections lagged was motor vehicle taxes and that's rather interesting as Pat Macfarren with CMA Strategies pointed out on Twitter, this was the one area where lawmakers raised taxes during the past legislative session, the sales tax on motor vehicle purchases. And we saw that overall collections declined. So perhaps the legislature impacted the economy there.
Pryor: Or perhaps it's an outlier.
Ashley: It very well could be. Motor vehicle collections are often cyclical and are hard to estimate and project.
Pryor: That's Capital Insider. Catch us on KGOU.org and get the Capital Insider podcast on iTunes. Until next time, with Sean Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.
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