Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.
There’s a phrase that most people have heard or used: “when push comes to shove.” Generally, this means there’s a standoff, and the question is, “what’s going to happen when push comes to shove?” Well, in the special session, push has come to shove. Both the Republican majority and the Democratic minority say they want to raise revenue for state operations — at least enough to avoid further budget cuts during the current fiscal year ending next June. But the time is quickly coming when the agencies most affected, the Department of Human Services, Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will be running out of money unless they make the cuts.
The argument is pretty much where it left off last May. Here’s the “push”: Republicans want an increase in the cigarette tax of $1.50 per pack and perhaps a gasoline tax increase as the bedrock of their revenue-raising plan. But even with a 2/3rd-plus margin in the House, they cannot pass these tax increases without Democratic votes. Too many Republican legislators will vote “no” on their own party’s position.
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