Oklahoma House to recess ‘until a budget agreement is reached’ (Fox 25 News)

By Shardaa Gray

The Oklahoma House of Representatives will recess until a budget agreement can be reached, the House Speaker announced Wednesday morning.

The legislature is in the third day of a special session to address a massive budget shortfall created when the State Supreme Court struck down a proposed cigarette tax. House Republicans are now focused on passing a tax on cigarettes, but Speaker Charles McCall says it’s clear that “House Democrats continue to play politics and do not intend to vote in support of the cigarette tax.”

McCall said the Democratic part does not intent to vote in support of the cigarette tax.

“We can do this today. We are prepared to do this today,” McCall said. “We need bipartisan support of the minority caucus of the house. And this is done.”

McCall said calling the recess will allow Governor Mary Fallin and the legislature to continue negotiating without wasting taxpayer dollars.

“House Republicans do have a plan to address the hole without House Democrats, but we will need the support of the governor and the Senate, who we have continued to negotiate with this week,” McCall said. “While we are closer to an agreement, we are not going to waste $30,000 a day negotiating. We pledge to continue negotiating in good faith with the governor and Senate, but we are going to do that off the clock. When there is an agreement in place, we will return and take care of the people’s business.”

He said they don’t want to waste any more tax payers dollars, but will continue to negotiate behind the scenes with the governor, the senate and house Democrats. This cigarette tax vote will fill approximately $120 million of the $215 million budget hole.

Minority leader, Scott Inman, said they’re standing firm by their original stance that they will not support the cigarette tax unless Republicans agree to raise the gross production tax on oil wells.

“We’re hoping that this fiasco that happened on the floor of house of representatives today; this embarrassment on behalf of the speaker,” Inman said. “We’re hoping that this means that he’s finally willing to come to the table and work with the governor, work with myself.”

Both sides said they’ll continue trying to work out a compromise, but representatives from the Oklahoma Policy Institute, KJ McKee, said if they don’t pass the cigarette tax and put it to the vote of the people in 2018, then that would mean they wouldn’t get their funds until 2019.

“Everybody is hanging on by a shoe string. This is a really scary time for Oklahoma and they have options. They have options to fix it, but they’re going to have to compromise,” McKee said.

She said if both parties don’t come to an agreement, people’s lives will literally be on the line.

It’s not clear when the House might come to an agreement.




Margaret (Maggie) den Harder obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Theology from Seattle Pacific University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Originally from the Pacific Northwest area of Washington state, Maggie has called Tulsa home for the past 8 years. Since living in Tulsa, Maggie has worked in the legal field, higher education administration, and the nonprofit sector as well as actively volunteering in the community. Maggie also recently spent time at the City of Tulsa as a consultant and wrote the content for Resilient Tulsa, an action-oriented strategy designed to better equity in Tulsa. Through her work, community involvement, and personal experiences, Maggie is interested in the intersection of the law and mental health and addiction treatment issues, preventative and diversion programs, and maternal mental health, particularly post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. While working at Oklahoma Policy Institute as a research intern, Maggie further developed an interest in family dynamics and stability, economic security-related stress, and intergenerational trauma.

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