Capitol Closed but Leadership Continues to Meet

By Rep. Mike Sanders

The state Capitol is closed this week as crews replace the building’s entire electrical system, part of which includes original wiring installed more than 100 years ago. Despite the closure, House leadership has met via teleconference, and we will be in over the weekend putting in place further options for how to proceed in special session to re-appropriate the state budget.

The easiest way to fill the current budget hole is obviously for the cigarette tax to pass. But, any plan to raise revenue requires a three-fourths vote in both the House and the Senate, and the governor has said she would not sign a budget that contained cuts to state agencies.

So, we’re at an impasse.

The plan to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes by $1.50 has garnered Republican and Democrat support, and 67 percent of Oklahoma voters polled say they support this. Yet, instead of voting for this one tax increase to go toward affected Oklahoma healthcare budgets, Democrats have said they will not vote for this as a stand-alone measure. Instead, they want four additional tax increases on income, motor vehicle fuel, gross production on new oil and gas wells and services not currently taxed

House Republicans have been trying to go through negotiations in good faith, but this is not at all a good deal – four votes for one. Who in their right mind would think that is a fair trade? That’s disingenuous and dishonest.

My first priority is keeping my rural hospitals and nursing homes open, and I want to give teachers a raise. But, there is no way as a small-government conservative that I am going to ask the Oklahoma taxpayer to give four times over to bloat government. We will continue to work for the most pressing items in the governor’s call for this special session, but the rest of her wishes can wait for regular session.

Even though the Capitol is dark this week, please know I am still working on a solution. In the meantime, not convening in special session until a deal is brokered is still saving you, the taxpayer, money.

On a final note, I want to thank my constituents who have stopped me at ball games, at church, at the supermarket, at Rotary meetings and other places to offer suggestions and solutions. I want to thank each of you for the ideas.

I work for the people in House District 59, and I will continue to take this job seriously as I serve both our district and the state of Oklahoma. We will find a way forward that funds core government services but not solely on the backs of our citizens.

As always, I’d love to hear from you. I can be contacted at Mike.Sanders@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7407.

 

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