KGOU

Capitol Insider: Filling The Budget Hole, Democrats Flip State House Seat

Sep 15, 2017

House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace (R-Welston) has proposed filling the state’s $215 million budget hole by passing a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax, expanding tribal gaming and taking money from the state’s rainy day fund.

Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz (R-Altus) says a new cigarette tax is the best way to fill the state’s budget hole. According to eCapitol news director Shawn Ashley, Schulz hasn’t weighed in on expanding tribal gaming.

A proposal to allow roulette and dice games in Oklahoma was passed out of the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget last session. However, the bill met opposition in the Senate and died.

Schulz said Wednesday he's confident the Senate can a pass the $1.50 tax increase on cigarettes.

He told eCapitol he isn’t looking at removing any existing tax exemptions, an idea Governor Mary Fallin suggested before the last legislative session.

"We don't have time in a special session for ideas that have not been thoroughly vetted in the legislative process. We don't have time to rehash arguments from the past two years. Before the special session is gaveled in, we need to have an agreement and plan in place so that we can move quickly and effectively,” Schulz said

Ashley says Fallin hasn’t yet brought her suggestions on filling the budget hole.

Special Election

 

Democrat Jacob Rosecrants won a special election for the Norman and Noble seat in the House of Representatives Tuesday.

Rosecrants beat Republican candidate Darin Chambers and won more than 60 percent of the vote.  The State House District 46 seat was left empty after former lawmaker Scott Martin left to run the Norman Chamber of Commerce.

Rosecrants is a middle school teacher with Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Democrats have won five of the last six special elections for seats in the state legislature and the governor has scheduled three more special elections to fill vacant seats, including state House of Representatives District 27 in Woodward.

Fallin called the election to fill the seat of former Senator Bryce Marlatt Thursday. The  Republican has been charged with sexual battery and is accused of forcefully grabbing and kissing an Uber driver in June.

Marlatt was charged last week and resigned Tuesday. Filing for the special election will be in early October. The primary is set for Dec. 12 and and the general election will be Feb. 13, 2018.

 

Full Transcript

Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, an insider's guide to Oklahoma politics and policy. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Shawn, a special legislative session is still about two weeks away and the ideas for filling the state's $215 million budget hole are starting to bubble up. House Appropriations and Budget chair Kevin Wallace is proposing a $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax increase, plus expanding tribal gaming, and he also wants to raid the rainy day fund. Is that a viable plan?

 

Shawn Ashley: I'm not sure that it is. Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz seemed to react rather coolly to the idea of expanding tribal gaming. This was a proposal that was put before lawmakers back during the regular session. While it did pass the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget. It did run into some opposition in the Senate and a bill there failed. There are a number of concerns about it, how quickly it could be implemented and whether you would actually get any money before the end of the current fiscal year, and what this would mean for tribal compacts. When you're talking about opening up compacts and the legislature getting involved in compacts, that raises a number of questions.

 

Pryor: Is there a split of opinion between the House and the Senate, especially in the Republican caucuses?

 

Ashley: I think there is. It seems like the House is looking at developing some sort of a new plan, something that hasn't been tried before necessarily, such as combining the cigarette tax with gaming and tapping some cash reserves. Senate President Pro Tem Mike Schulz, however, on the other hand, says we need to stay with the tried and true, those things which have been vetted. And he has come out in support of the cigarette tax but not the other elements of the House plan.

 

Pryor: The state Supreme Court opened the door to repealing tax credits and exemptions to raise revenue. Is that idea gaining any traction?

 

Ashley: It does not seem to be doing so in the House or the Senate. Both are looking at the cigarette tax in particular. I asked Pro Tem Schulz about that idea, whether they might look at eliminating some tax exemptions. He said instead what he would like to do is focus on those things that have been truly, fully vetted and he thinks the cigarette tax is that. One person we've not heard from in this discussion is the governor, who laid out a very broad-based plan back in February that included eliminating some of those exemptions. So she could come forward with a proposal of her own that would incorporate some of those ideas and put it on the table.

 

Pryor: A special election for the District 46 House seat has gained national attention. The Democratic Party scored another victory with the election of Jacob Rosecrants to fill the seat vacated by Scott Martin. Democrats now have won five of the last six special elections and three more are coming.

 

Ashley: You know, it's always interesting to “Wednesday morning quarterback” elections. If you look back over the last six special elections, the Democrats have done extremely well. But, in the midst of that, there was the general election of last November where Democrats lost seats in both the House and the Senate. But they seem to do particularly well in special elections and they've won seats that have been Republican strongholds. When Representative Cyndi Munson won her seat in northwest Oklahoma City, she took a seat that since the 1960s, when it was created, had always been held by Republicans. And we're talking about Republicans like now Governor Mary Fallin, now Attorney General Mike Hunter, the late Odilia Dank, the late David Dank--both very strong conservatives. So they have done well in traditionally conservative areas including House District 46 which had been held by a Republican since 1995. They need to translate that into general election wins in order to have greater success.

 

Pryor: And Jacob Rosecrants won with 60 percent of the vote.

 

Ashley: He won with 60 percent of the vote in a district that went 10 percent in favor of Donald Trump in the general election in November. In special elections, Democrats have been strong reversing what was an obvious pro-Republican trend just a little less than a year ago.

 

Pryor: On Thursday, Governor Mary Fallin announced another special election, this one to fill the seat vacated by Senator Bryce Marlatt.

 

Ashley: He resigned his seat after being charged with sexual battery in a case arising from an incident in June where he allegedly grabbed an Uber driver and forcefully kissed her. The general election, if necessary, will be in February right after the legislative session gets underway.

 

Pryor: That's Capitol Insider. Catch us on KGOU.org and get the Capitol Insider podcast on iTunes, where we will also have extended interviews with newsmakers. Until next time--with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

 

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