Senator John Sparks on behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statement on the budget cuts passed by the Senate on Wednesday:
“The lesson from the failure of the Step Up plan in the House last week isn’t that we should move on, it’s that we need to continue working and consider proposals in smaller packages. It is shortsighted, premature, and irresponsible to push through so early in the legislative session yet another inadequate budget plan that includes only cuts. A ‘yes’ vote on these cuts was a vote to abandon negotiations. Instead of giving up and imposing arbitrary cuts, the Republican leadership of the legislature and the Governor should return to the negotiating table.
The Senate Democrats believe we must have a balanced approach that includes new revenues. There are revenue measures that could have been brought to the floor this week that would receive broad bipartisan support, including a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase and repealing the income tax rate trigger of 5.25% for the wealthiest earners.
Instead, state agencies will be forced to implement these across the board cuts with only four months remaining in the fiscal year, which will compound their negative impact.
The Senate Democrats have long warned that years of Republican tax cuts would gut revenues, and result in budget failures and a collapse of public sector investment. We continue to languish at least a billion dollars below our investment level of a decade ago. These cuts to education, health care, transportation, and public safety agencies are only the beginning. Just yesterday the State Board of Equalization certified that we will be facing a $167 million shortfall for the next fiscal year starting July 1st.
If we want to actually solve some problems, then let’s get serious and get back to work on behalf of the people of Oklahoma.”