Oklahoma House Democrats, down to their lowest number in state history, still can be effective to challenge cuts to the personal income tax rate that could cripple state government, their leader says.
“We adamantly oppose the elimination of the state income tax because we believe it would shift the tax burden from the income tax to property taxes,” said Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. “We also believe that eliminating that nearly one-third of the state budget would decimate education, decimate transportation — our roads and bridges — and our health care system.”
Kansas, which approved a plan this year that was similar to one being floated by many GOP lawmakers this past session, is discovering the tax cuts are expected to cause huge shortfalls, with revenues projected to drop more than $700 million.
House Democrats, outnumbered 72-29 by Republicans, are developing their agenda but a priority will be to champion increased funding for public schools and the CareerTech system, which have been decimated by cuts over the last four or five years, Inman said.
“This year our top priority is to find a way to put money back into common education and CareerTech,” he said.
Another priority is similar to the GOP legislative leadership and Republican Gov. Mary Fallin of trying to improve the state's workers' compensation system, Inman said. But House Democrats are taking a different approach.
“We're not ready to commit to any kind of dramatic overhaul that guts the whole system. We've got to stay focused on a system that is fair to businesses that is also fair to the worker who is injured through no fault of his or her own.,” he said.
Funding the state's infrastructure, roads and bridges, and especially a way to distribute water from eastern Oklahoma to western parts of the state and other areas, is another key objective, Inman said.
Democrats also will be trying to improve the state's health care by illustrating that Fallin made a mistake in rejecting proposals to expand the Medicaid health care program to an estimated 150,000 uninsured individuals in Oklahoma and establishing an online marketplace for the uninsured to shop for health insurance, Inman said. House Democrats want Fallin to reverse her decisions, he said.
“We believe the governor made a terrible mistake based upon politics not based upon policy and we're going to work diligently to show her the facts and the people of Oklahoma the facts that allowing our tax dollars to be used to spend on somebody else's health care in another state is bad policy for Oklahoma when we've got one out of every five citizens without health care,” Inman said.
House Democrats will work with Republicans to try to find funding to make repairs to the crumbling state Capitol and to construct a new building for the state medical examiner's office, he said.
But they again will oppose a bond issue to pay for the improvements, he said.
“We think that the Legislature ought to pay as you go instead of driving our state into further debt,” Inman said.