My take on the budget negotiations. Please note I am NOT a legislative or budget expert. I know what I see, I know what I hear and I know the "players."
My BIGGEST take away is that the 26 member Democrat Caucus, lead by candidate Scott Inman, has changed their position multiple times throughout this session and have now set their feet in stone to raise taxes on job creating businesses and Oklahoma taxpayers, keeping an increase in personal income taxes on the table.
Republicans are frustrated that they have no oversight over agencies' spending and while they want to CUT spending, they cannot control where the cuts will be applied. Republicans believe in living within your means, and if you don't have the money, then you cannot continue spending at the same rate.
This is where POLITICS enters.... and Oklahomans suffer.
The Governor is right. Many agencies have been cut to the core and cannot handle another across-the-board cut. Many Republican Legislators believe the most vulnerable citizens will suffer without targeted line item oversight.
I asked every lawmaker I could find, WHERE can the cuts be made? Like I said, I am not an expert, but I asked the questions many of you have asked me. Have we tried to cut first? What cuts were rejected? Is raising fees and taxes truly the only option?
The answer to my questions was an overwhelming sense of frustration knowing they have little control over the majority of state spending.
I witnessed meetings in offices, in hallways and in stairwells talking about how to manage spending! For that, I am proud of our Legislators!
The political game being played is very simple. Republicans want to make cuts. Republicans have recommended many cuts. Many cuts have already been made to businesses knowing that we the consumer will pay higher costs.
But we must understand we cannot balance the budget on spending cuts alone. We must have some revenue increases to have a sustainable budget.
The Republicans have the votes to make cuts as it only takes a simple majority. But because of SQ640 it takes 3/4 of the Legislature to pass any revenue increases. That means we need 76 votes. Republicans have 73 votes, Democrats 26, 2 seats are unfilled
The Democrat Leadership (candidate Scott Inman) is holding the entire budget process hostage by controlling his 26 members' votes unless we agree to their terms for an increase in revenue.
Yes you heard me, the Democrats who hold 26 out of 101 seats are holding the entire process up and forcing us into a special session unless they get their way. They've learned well from the national Democrat Party!!!!
To prove what I'm saying about the political games being played, please see the video below when last February Inman did a press conference demanding GPT be raised to 4%. That is exactly what Republicans are offering today!!!!
In the negotiations of the last few days candidate Scott Inman refuses to vote for the budget agreement unless there is an increase in the gross production tax to 5%. If we agree to 5% will he demand 6%?
Please see for yourself how candidate Inman and the Democrats have turned this into political gamesmanship and then call the Democrat leadership and demand they negotiate in good faith and end this budget crisis.
I hope our Legislators hold the line on a balance of what is best for Oklahoma children, families and yes, job creating businesses.
- Pam Pollard, Chairman OK Republican Party