Oklahoma Senate passes budget plan despite objections from House leaders

Senate Republicans announce a budget proposal May 15 at the Oklahoma State Capitol. (KOKH/Kyle Hoelting)

The Oklahoma Senate has approved a budget plan despite objections from their counterparts in the House.

Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz says the approved plan "responsibly addresses the fiscal year 2018 shortfall".

“We were elected to lead and guide this state in a responsible manner, and that is precisely what the Senate budget does." Schulz said. "Like we’ve said all along, the solution to this year’s budget will come via a combination of cuts to agencies, new revenues, and structural budget reforms and that’s what is included in the Senate budget."

Schulz claims the plan will bring in $510 million in new revenue through the following:

  • $239 million through reforms to “off-the-top” transportation funds, includes $125 million from increasing tax on gasoline and diesel by $0.06 per gallon;
  • $215 million from increasing the cigarette tax $1.50 per pack;
  • $43 million by eliminating oil and gas gross production tax rebates;
  • $16 million by eliminating manufacturing sales tax exemption for the wind energy.

The bill also includes $69 million from bills already signed by Governor Mary Fallin. The plan calls for the remaining portion of the budget deficit to be make up by keeping cuts to state agencies under five percent.

Following the bill's passage Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall stated that the Senate's plan has already been proposed by House Republicans and been found to have no bi-partisan support.

"The Senate has known this for weeks, so what they proposed today is not a real solution to the budget problem. Per our Constitution, revenue raising measures must start in the House. We have a bipartisan plan in place in the House that, with Senate approval, would unlock $436 million in revenue for the budget.” McCall said.

The Oklahoma House did not vote to pass a proposal increasing the cigarette tax to the level in the Senate plan during Monday's session.

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