Try, fail, repeat, success? (Capitol Update)

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.

With what was termed the last hope for raising revenue this session, HB 1033XX, failed to reach the three-fourths majority needed to pass without a vote of the people. With 14 weeks left in the regular session, House Speaker Charles McCall and Majority Leader Jon Echols have said they are finished with revenue-raising measures for the session. Echols said it was like banging their heads against the wall. But 3½ months is an eternity to spend in session making brutal budget cuts to a budget that nearly everyone agrees is seriously deficient without looking at revenue options.

What I hope the speaker and floor leader meant was they are finished with voting on tax measures that are doomed to failure. Both Democratic and Republican House members — especially Republicans — are tired of voting for tax increases only to see the bills fail. Since the beginning of last session, they have taken many such votes. They feel they get the worst of all worlds: the anger of some constituents who are opposed to more taxes and no benefit from the money that would meet the state’s budget needs.

Republican leaders were surprised with how far short the vote fell on HB 1033XX. It was 13 votes short of the three-fourths majority. Going into the vote they seemed to believe they either had the votes for passage or were close enough that they could turn enough votes on reconsideration. They probably knew 18 Republicans would vote “no,” but they were surprised when 17 Democrats also voted “no.” I think the surprise margin of failure resulted in the feelings of despair and the statements that there is no use continuing to search for a winning solution.

It’s a safe bet that if you see another tax vote this session, the bill will pass. The only way that can happen is if the leadership can accurately count Democratic votes. They can get that count only if there is a tax plan agreed to by both parties. There was a hopeful sign last week when Auditor and Inspector and Republican gubernatorial candidate Gary Jones proposed a new tax plan that was endorsed by House Democrats. The plan included a 5 percent gross production tax along with a 75-cent cigarette tax and a 3-cent gasoline tax and 6-cent diesel tax increase.

Although this proposal will likely not be the final deal, it has re-started the process. Gary Jones should be lauded for having the courage to make the proposal. It, or something like it, is attractive because it’s balanced and eliminates the wind tax which was unpopular with both Democrats and Republicans. The people promoting the wind tax are the big oil and gas interests.

I still think something good will happen by the end of session. It may not be a good as it could have been or should been, but isn’t that always the case? Neither was HB 1033XX.


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1990. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol.

2 thoughts on “Try, fail, repeat, success? (Capitol Update)

  1. The 5% GPT might make it through if that was for beginning to end! They need to stick 50 cents on beer 50 cents on liquor and 50 cents on cigarettes. Expand Medicaid, End the high earner tax breaks.cut the politicians pay and benefits. Make a law that it’s illegal for any politicians to accept money from anyone other than their taxpayer checks that they get paid to do a job for all citizens of Oklahoma!! Legalize Hemp to to be grown and sold in Oklahoma.

  2. Also end these millions a year in incentives to tribes for selling cigarettes and Fossil Fuel Industry. These people are taking in millions of dollars a year I do t believe they need on top of that Oklahoma taxpayers dollars!! Anyone else y’all have been do I g that with that are millionaires or billionaires already they don’t on top of that need taxpayers tax dollars it should be going for programs that benefit Oklahoma Citizens!! Single payer healthcare and daycare for all Oklahoma!! School breakfasts and lunches are free for all Oklahoma Students!!

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