The State Senate will take up the budget bailout bill on Friday after it won approval Wednesday in the State House on a 56 to 38 vote, but not before the oil and gas industry was targeted by some Democrats with more criticism.
The plan calls for the reduction of overall state spending by nearly $60 million from more than four dozen agencies. They face an average reduction in spending of 2.5 percent.
During debate, Rep. Matt Meredith of Tahlequah argued the bill harmed counties through a reduction of a 5-year state Transportation Department plan. He also said it hurt educators because it included no pay raise for teachers.
“I want to apologize to our teachers. I want to say ‘sorry’ to the county commissioners that are here in the room today, that we do not value you all more than we value the oil and gas industry,” charged Meredith.
Under the measure, an estimated $48 million would be raised by increasing the gross production tax earlier than planned from 4 percent to 7 percent on older producing oil and gas wells. It does not contain any tax hike on new wells, a move that many Democrats had supported and rejected earlier budget bailout bills because they did not include it.
What remains uncertain is how the Governor might respond should the measure win approval in the Senate.
“We are setting Oklahoma up for failure that will take many years to undo the damage we have done to our state’s image,” said the governor in response to the House vote. “This is not what I want and I can tell you the majority of the Legislature doesn’t want it either.”