Going into Overtime

By Rep. Mike Sanders

Oklahoma legislators continue to discuss the budget. The talks are going later into session than normal, due to the difficulty of building consensus around a way forward in such a difficult year. In particular, I am fighting against certain schemes to raise revenue such as doing away with the earned income tax credit and reducing benefits for teachers. I am also fighting against balancing the budget by cutting transportation funding.

The earned income tax credit was supported by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and by former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, yet it has somehow mistakenly seen as a “liberal” tax credit. Average Oklahomans use it and eliminating it would have a negative impact on their household finances.

While, I would prefer to get things done quickly, it is ultimately more important that they get done right. I think that for every delay we may run into on getting a budget done, a bad idea will have been shelved and a good idea put in its place.

Legislation to level the playing field between Oklahoma brick-and-mortar retailers and out-of-state vendors has been signed into law. House Bill 2531 will require online retailers that do not have a physical presence in Oklahoma to either begin voluntarily collecting sales tax at the point of consumer purchase or sending each of their consumers a notice at the end of each year stating the total amount of purchases with a reminder that sales and use tax remittance is required.

Oklahoma retailers compete on price, service and selection, but the current structure puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to taxes. Now, we will fix that problem and it should also lead to some money that will close the budget gap. The measure passed by a vote of 70-18 in the House.

I and many of my public-safety-minded colleagues were horrified in the state court of criminal appeals decision to refuse to interpret the sexual molestation of an intoxicated individual as “forcible sodomy.” A colleague who is a former prosecutor immediately revamped Senate Bill 2398 to make sure the intoxication of the individual does not allow the perpetrator to have a legal loophole. We approved it quickly in the House and it is now being carried in the Senate by my good friend Sen. AJ Griffin.

Budget negotiations continue to be intense and the sticking points remain the elimination of the earned income tax credit, transportation funding, how much to bond and our knowledge that agency directors will have a lot of control over that money once we approve it. I believe government must live within its means. Doing otherwise is setting up trouble for the future. I also believe that the agency heads must look at adjusting payroll rather than cutting services when we choose to reduce their funding and put it into core services. If they do not, we will hold them accountable.

In next week’s column, I hope to be able to present a budget agreement. As always, I can be reached at (405) 557-7407 or mike.sanders@okhouse.gov.

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