Hepner responded that the Congressional Budget Office determined the legislation will not add to the country's debt and will instead lower its debt.
He said entitlements are to blame for the burgeoning federal debt.
“We have promised benefits for a long time we just can't afford to pay,” Hepner said. “And we are passing that on. … We can't solve those problems by one party acting alone. We can't solve those problems with one party saying ‘no.' We have to work together.”
Fed, state tax issues
Evans, executive director at the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University, said another threat could be posed by the stalemate in Washington over budget cuts and increased revenues referred to as the fiscal cliff.
If no agreement is reached, Evans warned, the $110 billion cut in spending will include a $55 billion reduction in military spending that could trigger dramatic changes at Tinker Air Force Base and other military installations in the state.
Evans, however, discounted the possibility of the Republicans and Democrats not reaching an agreement.
“It's inconceivable some deal won't be struck,” said Evans, noting he has been told by contacts in Washington that the ‘fiscal cliff' is “a meaningless, artificial crisis.”
Likewise, the economists unanimously agreed state lawmakers need to shift their efforts from cutting income tax rates to cutting sales tax rates.
Hepner said income taxes account for 40 percent of state revenues and that eliminating the remaining income tax revenue would cut $2 billion from education, roads and other basic state functions.
“We have an income tax that is below the national average,” he said. “We have a sales tax above the national average. I'd argue the sales tax is a much bigger issue.”