Thursday, May 18, 2017

Will Friday be Taxapalooza?


Facing a shortfall of $878M, legislators have just a few days left to figure out how to deal with it. Friday, May 19th, is the final day that the Oklahoma Legislature can hear and pass any new "revenue raising" (i.e. tax hiking) legislation without going into a special session. Constitutionally, tax increases can not be introduced or heard in the final five days of session.

Gov. Mary Fallin has pushed for up to $2.6B in tax increases all session long, beginning with a $1.7B sales tax expansion. Apart from a handful of conservatives (mainly in the House), both Republicans and Democrats have had their own tax-increase proposals, but none have made it past the 75% affirmative vote threshold yet. That hurdle means that even if every Republican votes for a tax increase, some Democrat votes will be needed.

Republican legislative leadership met with Gov. Fallin and Democrat legislative leadership (that is, until House Minority Leader Inman left for a gubernatorial campaign caucus press conference) to try and hammer out a deal. We'll see what they end up putting forward during the day Friday.

At the beginning of each term, the new leadership (in Oklahoma City and in Washington, D.C.) talks a big game about openness, transparency, and allowing the public 48-72 hours to view important legislation... but when push comes to shove, budget bills like this get voted on before the ink dries from the printer, before members get to read the measure, and before the public is even aware of that vote.

The process needs to change.

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