House Democrats Call for Budget Talks After Step Up Oklahoma Failure

Feb 13, 2018

Credit Matt Trotter / KWGS

Oklahoma House Democrats said Tuesday they aren’t done trying to repair the state budget despite the failure of the Step Up Oklahoma plan.

House Minority Leader Steve Kouplen said it’s time for lawmakers to work with each other.

"All the negotiations we’ve had the last couple months have been, actually, with the Step Up group. … It wasn’t negotiations with anybody else in this building. It certainly wasn’t with the Speaker," Kouplen said.

When it comes to income taxes, Democrats are calling for the top individual rate to be pushed back up to 5.25 percent, restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit and a bigger standard deduction.

Rep. Emily Virgin said they also want a 5 percent gross production tax, fair taxes on wind energy producers, and pay raises for teachers and state workers.

"We have not been secretive about what we’ve been asking for in this entire process. We have communicated these things to Republican leadership, Republican members and to the Step Up coalition several times," Virgin said.

Republicans have said it’ll take more than $40 million in cuts and $50 million in one-time spending to finish fiscal year 2018 after the Step Up plan’s major tax provisions fell 13 votes short late Monday night. Virgin said Republicans are using that as leverage.

"Those cuts aren’t necessary right now. We have the opportunity to come together and work on a compromise to avoid those cuts," Virgin said. "We’re just asking for the Speaker to come back to the table and negotiate with us to find something we can all agree on."

Republicans said Tuesday Democrats aren’t willing to compromise. Majority Leader Jon Echols, however, indicated a vote could be held on a revenue bill if an agreement can be reached.

House Speaker Charles McCall said Monday the Step Up bill would be the only revenue bill lawmakers would consider.