State Senate Democrats have voted to oust Sen. John Sparks from his position as Senate Democratic leader-elect and replace him with state Sen. Randy Bass.
The change comes amid a brouhaha that developed over Sparks writing a commentary in The Journal Record opposing raising taxes on the oil and gas industry.
Bass is now scheduled to replace Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, as Senate Democratic leader. Burrage chose not to seek re-election.
Intense behind-the-scenes negotiations have been going on between government and industry officials over whether the oil industry should give up at least part of a tax break that reduces the tax rate on horizontal wells from 7 percent to 1 percent for 48 months after the start of production.
The tax break is costing the state treasury about $250 million a year, according to an estimate published by a Tulsa-based group called Together OK.
“The issue of the horizontal drilling tax is an overriding one this session, especially considering the budget constraints we’re facing,” Sen. Bass, D-Lawton, said in a news release Friday. “We realize there’s a great deal at stake for everyone at the table, and discussions are ongoing.”
Bass said Senate Democrats “had agreed to let those discussions unfold before staking out a definitive position.”
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