By Rep. Mike Sanders
The House plans to come back into special session on Monday afternoon to consider new appropriations measures.
In the meantime, the House Republican caucus continues to meet to discuss each and every part of the plan. The caucus met two times this week for four to five hours each time discussing how we can address the governor’s call while remaining true to our conservative principals and funding core state services.
I along with House leadership have been working behind the scenes and late into the night coming up with a plan that addresses most of the governor’s call. The first item is to fill a $215 million revenue hole left after the state Supreme Court struck down the Smoking Cessation Act of 2015. The revenue would have gone primarily to three healthcare agencies. Another item is to increase teacher pay. Overall, the governor has asked the Legislature to restructure the budget process.
The plan may change by the time you read this, but we are still discussing raising the cigarette tax and an increase in gross production tax. Other ideas also are still being vetted. While we’ve raised gross production tax on legacy wells last year, many House Republicans think there is still room to negotiate.
My main priority is keeping our rural hospitals and nursing homes open and that our children and senior adults who need services receive them. Those are the most vulnerable, and that is my No. 1 priority.
House leadership is talking Thursday and Friday with the governor and the Senate about healthcare and teacher pay. I will discuss in future columns more details of the plan once an agreement is reached. The plan must be one that will pass the House and the Senate and be agreed upon by the governor.
It takes both parties and both chambers and the executive branch to make this happen. I’ve asked my fellow lawmakers to please set aside politics, political ambition and political grandstanding so we can do what is right for the state of Oklahoma. I’ve encouraged them to be statesmen and stateswomen and do what our constituents hired us to do and fix the immediate problems with our healthcare issues and teacher pay.
I want to thank each person from my district who has taken the time to call or email or reach out to me on Facebook. I read each suggestion, idea and thought. They give me a great idea of what people in my district want so I can articulate that to the speaker and our leadership team.
I ask for your prayers during this tumultuous time. But, I am optimistic we will strike an agreed-upon plan and move Oklahoma forward.
In closing, I want to turn my focus for a moment to the horrific massacre our nation experienced last Sunday in Las Vegas. Evil struck down and killed nearly 60 Americans and injured over 500 people. I’m thankful for the law enforcement and first responders and the everyday heroes who put themselves between people they didn’t even know and bullets, sacrificing themselves to protect their fellow man. The heroism exemplified shows to all of us and the world that America can come together. I ask for continued prayer for the families of those who lost their lives and for the injured victims as well as for those who were in the crowd and still reeling from the trauma of this tragedy.