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House Democrats release priorities

They want to see the Medicaid program expanded and oppose a bond issue to repair the state Capitol.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Capitol Bureau Published: January 30, 2013

House Democrats, taking a swipe at Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, said Wednesday they support expanding the Medicaid program in the state and want to pay for repairs to the crumbling Capitol out of available funds instead of seeking a bond issue.

And they said they would oppose cutting the state's personal income tax rate. Fallin has said she again will propose reducing the top rate of 5.25 percent when she gives her State of the State address Monday to returning lawmakers.

Fallin last year rejected the federal government's proposal to expand the Medicaid health care program to an estimated 200,000 uninsured individuals in Oklahoma. The governor said the Medicaid expansion is unaffordable and untenable given the fiscal challenges the federal government faces.

She also has challenged lawmakers to address repairing the nearly 100-year-old Capitol, saying she supports a bond issue. It's been estimated repairs and renovations could cost about $160 million.

House Democrats, outnumbered 72-29 by Republicans, said they recommend a pay-as-you-go approach and oppose increasing the state's debt by issuing bonds in order to pay for the Capitol's repair. It's estimated lawmakers will have about $170 million more to appropriate this year as they develop a nearly $7 billion budget.

“Oklahomans deserve a responsible budget that doesn't increase our debt,” said Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah. “Whereas the Republican agenda has been to shrink government by starving it through the legislative process and gutting funding to, for instance, public broadcasting and senior nutrition and veterans' centers, Democrats propose a reasonable budget that restores funding to core public services and a tax policy that is fair and equitable for all Oklahomans.”

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