Several key issues are unresolved as Oklahoma Legislature speeds to adjournment

School shelter bill, drilling tax at issue despite budget agreement in the Oklahoma Legislature
by Rick Green Modified: May 18, 2014 at 9:03 pm •  Published: May 19, 2014
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photo - Bradford pear trees in bloom on the Oklahoma state Capitol grounds with the Capitol dome in the background March 18, 2005, in Okla. City. Staff photo by Paul B. Southerland
Bradford pear trees in bloom on the Oklahoma state Capitol grounds with the Capitol dome in the background March 18, 2005, in Okla. City. Staff photo by Paul B. Southerland

Oklahoma lawmakers begin what may be the last week of this legislative session Monday knowing that many of this year’s pressing issues were resolved in a budget deal Friday.

The deal included employee raises, a plan to fix the crumbling state Capitol and an $80 million hike for common education.

But at least two key issues are still hanging fire:

•One of Gov. Mary Fallin’s top priorities, a bill that would refer to voters a measure allowing school districts a one-time hike in bonding authority to fund school storm shelters and other safety improvements.

•A plan for permanently setting Oklahoma’s gross production tax rate at 2 percent for the first 48 months on all new oil and gas wells, followed by a 7 percent tax rate for the remainder of each well’s production.

And while Fallin on Friday praised the new, $7.1 billion budget as responsible and realistic, there was also disappointment over what didn’t get done.

A proposal that she and the state Senate had supported to complete the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City did not get included in the spending agreement. The House failed to support a plan to provide $40 million from the state’s unclaimed property fund, to be matched by $40 million in private donations, to finally complete the long-stalled project.

Alex Weintz, her spokesman, said Fallin wants to see the project completed.

“It is currently a half-built project lying unused on prime riverside real estate, costing taxpayers money every month even as it is ignored,” he said. “The governor supports using a mixture of public and private dollars to complete the museum and ensure it begins to add value and revenue to the state. Unfortunately, the Legislature was never able to agree on a way to secure funding for the museum this year.”

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by Rick Green
Capitol Bureau Chief
Rick Green is the Capitol Bureau Chief of The Oklahoman. A graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., he worked as news editor for The Associated Press in Oklahoma City before joining The Oklahoman.
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