Democrats seek trooper pay raise
House Democrats urged Republicans to join them in voting against an appropriation bill for the public Safety Department in an effort to get a pay raise for state troopers. House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said defeating House Bill 2303 would force GOP leaders to find the $7 million requested by troopers. Rep. Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview, who presented the bill on the House floor, said the bill's defeat would mean only that the Public Safety Department would have to use some of the $26 million it has in revolving funds, but that money is earmarked for vehicles, the trooper cadet academy and other needs. Inman reminded lawmakers they all voted for trooper pay raises in a bill earlier this year; it stalled and was in a conference committee when the budget agreement was reached. The House voted 64-24 to pass HB 2303. It now goes to the Senate.
Bill would extend tax exemption
A House budget committee approved a bill Wednesday that would extend the sunset date of the sales tax exemption for the sale of rail cars. Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, told members of the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget that Trinity Industries, which manufactures oil tanker rail cars at plants in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, is planning to expand its operations. Committee members approved a late substitute to House Bill 2310, which took out reauthorizing a tax credit for Oklahoma manufacturers of advanced small wind turbines. The committee voted 21-0 to pass HB 2310. It now goes to the House Calendar Committee.
Devon center tax bill advances
How many would step up and seek to get a steeper tax bill on their property, especially if it is worth an estimated $750 million? The House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget on Wednesday approved House Bill 2311, which would allow a county assessor to use the actual and indirect construction costs instead of the building's fair market value. The way the bill is written, it applies only to the Devon Energy Center in downtown Oklahoma City: It is worth more than $500 million and is in a tax increment finance district. Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, said the Oklahoma County assessor's office told him Larry Nichols, co-founder and executive chairman of Devon, agreed to pay a certain amount of taxes on the 50-story building. Fair market value, which the assessor uses to determine property taxes, was below that amount, Newell said. HB 2311 states the owner of the asset may provide the county assessor with documents to determine fair cash value. HB 2311 passed 14-6 and goes to the House Calendar Committee.
MICHAEL MCNUTT, CAPITOL BUREAU