Emergency clauses on approved bills were held hostage several times during the 2011 legislative session. This year the hostage-taking involves a weightier matter: tax cuts.
Last year the hostage takers were conservative Republicans. They may join Democrats in holding bond issues hostage in exchange for deferring tax cuts.
Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, says that increasing debt while cutting revenue is irresponsible: “It is not how the people of Oklahoma run their households, and it is not how we should run the Capitol.”
This strikes us as ironic coming from a member of the political party that's been running up massive debt in Washington. If Oklahomans ran their households like Congress and the White House run the country, we'd all need a bailout.
Republican leaders want to cut personal income taxes. Bond issues for state Capitol repairs and other capital improvements, plus funding for museums in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, have been stalled not so much by Democratic resistance but by reluctance on the part of conservative Republicans.
Now the Democrats have laid down a marker, leveraging their outright opposition to tax cuts with a threat to block bond issues that they don't necessarily oppose. Soft support for bond issues among some Republicans can't be helped by solidarity among Democrats in ostensible opposition to increasing the state's bonded indebtedness.
Republican Gov. Mary Fallin wants a tax cut and the bond issues, but chances for any significant tax cuts are eroding by the day — as are the chances for multiple bond issues.
Democrats need help from Republicans to stop the tax cuts. The ones who flexed their muscle last year in the mostly symbolic gesture of voting down emergency clauses have been gifted by the Democrats with the power to set the tone for the remainder of this session and hose tax cuts and bond issues.