Numerous reasons cited for failure of Fallin's tax-cut proposal
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Sunday, May 27, 2012
5/27/12 at 7:50 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Despite supermajorities in both houses and control of the governor's office, the GOP failed to get its highly touted tax-cut proposal through the Legislature.
"I think they are a House divided," said Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman Wallace Collins, a former House member. "I think they have internal problems and that is evident by the fact they don't even work together in the Legislature."
Those familiar with the process said several factors contributed to the failure to pass a tax cut by the end of session on Friday.
About a week before the end of session, Gov. Mary Fallin, flanked by Republican lawmakers from both houses, held a Capitol press conference to announce an agreement on a tax cut.
But by Monday, it was apparent that plan faced considerable opposition in the House because of concerns it would increase taxes on some who fell squarely within the Republican base.
On Wednesday, House Republican leaders announced another proposal, which the Senate promptly shot down.
On Thursday, a day before the legislative session was set to end, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and Fallin announced the tax-cut proposals were dead for the session.
Fallin and Bingman said a tax cut will be a priority next legislative session.
"In the end, the House and Senate didn't come to an agreement," Fallin said.
Fallin, in her State of the State address to a joint session in February, unveiled her proposal to reduce the income tax rate from 5.25 percent, collapse the brackets and eventually eliminate the income tax.
"Our plan is a game-changer for Oklahoma," she said in February, adding that it was the conservative centerpiece of the GOP pro-jobs agenda.
"They still haven't learned how to govern," said Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, former House minority leader.
"That is where the word compromise comes in."
Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, spent the interim chairing the Task Force on Economic Tax Credits and Incentives, which studied the millions in dollars the state forgoes for tax credits and incentives.
He had hoped eliminating some credits and incentives would result in additional state dollars to fund a tax cut. But special interests lobbied hard to retain their credits and exemptions and won over many House members, much to the dismay of Republican senators who were willing to eliminate them.
Dank also blamed battling factions in the Oklahoma House for the failure.
He said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, whom he admires, could have introduced the Ten Commandments or the Lord's Prayer in the Oklahoma House, and it would have been opposed by some groups who dislike the outgoing speaker.
Former House Speaker Chris Benge said concerns about low natural gas prices, required funding for core services and those who wanted deeper tax cuts contributed to the failure to agree on a plan.
Republicans have substantially increased their numbers in the Oklahoma House, which creates challenges for anyone in charge because it increases the number of viewpoints, said Benge, who is the Tulsa Metro Chamber senior vice president of government affairs.
Keith Gaddie, a University of Oklahoma political science professor, agreed.
"It is harder to govern with a large majority than small majority," Gaddie said. "It is harder to instill discipline in membership."
"The problem is the process where you wait until the last two weeks to get everything accomplished," said Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne.
Republicans had hoped to campaign in the upcoming elections on a tax cut.
Benge, who served in the House for 12 years, doesn't think the failure to pass a tax cut will hurt Republicans in the upcoming elections. Neither did Bingman, who said the state just saw an income-tax reduction.
"It looks like this will be a strong year for Republicans politically," Benge said.
Original Print Headline: Reasons behind tax cut's failure numerous
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465