Step Up Oklahoma Tax Plan Vote Held Open Until Midnight

The Step Up Oklahoma Plan’s tax increase package failed to get the 76 votes in the House it needed to move to the Senate. The plan called for $581 million in revenue by raising taxes on cigarettes and tobacco, gasoline, diesel, oil and gas production and creating a renewable energy tax. Republican leadership called it the last chance vote for a revenue package. The most Democrats with a few of Republicans felt more time could be spent on adjusting the Step Up Oklahoma plan for a better mix of tax increases.

The vote on House Bill 1033xx was 63-34 at 9:30 p.m. Monday night. The vote was held open until midnight in hopes some Democrats would change their votes. House Speaker Charles McCall and members of the Step Up Oklahoma Coalition held a press conference to ask Democrats to change their minds.

During Monday afternoon’s debate, Rep. Meloyde Blancett vocalized that she was in favor of voting for the tax measures. However, she said it wasn’t enough to shrink classroom sizes, buy textbooks, solve the Department of Corrections issues and other problems facing the state.

“Yes, this does get us revenue but right now we are in a canyon sized chasm with a ladder. This gets us about three steps up the ladder. So, I would encourage all of you that are asking to support this, I would encourage all of you to recognize that there are about 25 other steps up the ladder that are necessary,” said Blancett.

Rep. Kevin McDugle agrees that more needs to be done to put the state on the right path. However, he was more concerned about oversight.

“I am against all of the misappropriated funds, but we need the cash flow, so I’m voting yes for this bill, so we can get to where we need to be. Now, I mind you, that I will be voting this year for a number of bills that are going to put audits in place. That are going to make boards, authorities, trusts and commissions report to proper authority. We’re going to have to turn this place around,” McDugle said.

Rep. Casey Murdock believes the Legislature needs to take more time before voting in the tax increases.

“We need to vet this.  We need this bill to go through the process. Every bill that I’ve ran here, I was in love with at the first of session. Thought it was the perfect bill. But you want to know something? When it finally got through and went through the process, it was a better bill than what I started with,” said Murdock.

Rep. Emily Virgin also stood against HB 1033xx. She believes the oil and gas industry are behind this because it wants to avoid a possible vote for an increase of gross production taxes to seven percent on all wells.

“Because there’s an initiative petition and the voters want seven percent. They want oil and gas to pay their fair share,” said Virgin.

She added that despite calls that the Step Up Oklahoma plan would be the one and only shot, Virgin claims negotiations were continuing before Monday’s session.

“Just as of a few minutes ago, we were being offered changes to this plan. We were being offered further negotiations. That tells me something. This is being rushing through on the fifth day of session,” said Virgin.

She felt the reason the measure was being rushed through was to placate non-elected business leaders who devised the Step Up Oklahoma Plan.

Former House Appropriations and Budget Chair Rep. Leslie Osborn took up the cause for the plan. She pointed to the years of cuts to most of state agencies and called for the need of a state version of Oklahoma City’s MAPS revitalization measures. She also said this would be the last chance for the Legislature to vote on revenue increasing measures to fund state government.

“And this good man over here, the Speaker, has been quite clear this is the last revenue we’ll run this year. And I believe him. At some point you quit beating your head on the damn brick wall,” said Osborn.

A little later in the debate, former Democratic House Leader Rep. Scott Inman noted that he thought he would not be back up for a debate like this again. Last year, he quit his gubernatorial campaign and stepped down as Democratic Leader to tend to family issues. He also said he would resign his legislative seat but changed his mind in December. He rose to debate against the Step Up Plan in his typical fashion of painting a word picture and then becoming passionate about his reasons to vote against the legislation.

“My caucus and I, we stood on the right side of history. We stood here for years and said don’t cut the taxes. You cannot cut yourself to prosperity. If you cut gross production taxes deeper than any other state in the nation, if you cut income tax to the tune of a billion and a half dollars you will bankrupt this state,” said Inman.

For the first time since he became Speaker, McCall stepped into the debate. He said it was simply because it is time to act.

“Because it is time for us to unite as a body and to do what is right for the people of Oklahoma,” said McCall.

He believes the Step Up Oklahoma revenue plan puts state government back on the right track.

“This measure will finally fix our broken budget. It is a first step, but you have to step forward. To reach the end, you must move forward.”

After the Speaker wrapped up his debate, the vote was opened. And remained so for hours with the vote total locked at 63 to 35. Seventy-six votes are needed to pass the revenue increases.


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  1. castor, 13 February, 2018

    Fat lot of good it did them. Speaker McCall should consider stepping aside.


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