We’re into the second half of the legislative session. Being that last week was the deadline for floor action on Senate bills, we were extremely busy. We heard more than 300 bills in the last two weeks.
Senate Republicans voted strongly (85%) in favor of the revenue package presented Thursday night through HB 1033. We voted on HB 1033 that would generate $450 million for a 12.7 percent teacher pay raise and a $2,500 state employee raise. The measure would have increased the GPT from 2-4 percent on all wells ($126 million); increase the gas diesel tax by six cents ($170 million); and increase the cigarette tax by $1/ pack ($152 million).
SB1033 failed by two votes, only two votes away from the constitutionally-required three-fourths majority. But we’re not done. We will keep working to find a solution to create revenue that our Democratic colleagues can agree with. While the bill to pay for the raise failed, the actual bill (SB133) creating the raise passed overwhelmingly so as soon as we find a revenue source, the vehicle is there ready to move forward.
Unfortunately, revenue raising measures must get approved by 75 percent of both the Senate and House. In the Senate that is 36 votes and in the House, it’s 76 votes.
The source of the gridlock in Oklahoma is that we require super majority approval for revenue raising measures. SQ 640, enacted by voters in 1992, has led to the current gridlock and made it virtually impossible to approve reasonable revenue plans to shore up the state budget and provide teacher and state employee pay raises.
The Senate recently approved SJR61 which would send SQ640 back to the vote of the people for them to modify SQ 640 so that 75 percent support for tax increases is required except for increases to sales and use taxes, which would only require a 60% (3/5) support from the House and Senate.
Also this week, I finished up my remaining bills that passed off the Senate floor. These included: SB1364, which modifies procedures for sale of certain property and SB1365 modifies the maximum amount of certain county retirement contributions. SB1369 is a bill that clarifies language relating to police and fire arbitration. SB1372 extends the billing cycle of the State Medicaid Program and, lastly, SB1488 creates a lifetime landowner license.
At the State Senate, I can be reached by writing to Senator Chris Kidd, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 411A, Oklahoma City, OK 73105, emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling (405) 521-5563 and speaking to my assistant Suzanne Earnest.