Senate Democratic Leader John Sparks released the following statement on behalf of the Senate Democratic Caucus:
“After a decade of failed tax cuts and revenue failures, this session the legislature finally started to change course. For the first time in recent memory the legislature acted on new revenue and the enacted budget does not include cuts to state agencies. While this is an improvement, we should not be celebrating simply because we are beginning to repair the damage.
There is still more work to do to restore the devastating cuts made over the last decade. Instead of rushing out the door and adjourning early, the legislature could have stayed until the scheduled end of session and taken the time to address the need for additional revenue.
Since 2008, state aid funding for education has been cut by $179 million, which has led to fewer teachers, larger class sizes, four day school weeks, and outdated textbooks. New funding for education operations in the proposed budget is only $50 million.
Too many new revenue options were left on the table. Repealing the capital gains tax deduction would have brought in an additional $100 million. Restoring the 5.25% income tax rate could generate $150 million annually.
Unfortunately, instead of working together to pass bipartisan revenue measures, the legislature wasted the final days of the legislative session on controversial bills including permit-less carry of firearms, allowing adoption agencies to refuse placement to same-sex couples, and new Medicaid requirements that will result in fewer Oklahomans with health care coverage.
This session the Senate Democratic Caucus legislative agenda prioritized policies that will have a positive impact for the people of Oklahoma. We passed bills to require background checks for prospective guardians of children and their households (Floyd – SB 1581), expedite occupational licensing for spouses of active duty military service members stationed in Oklahoma (Dossett – SB 1141), and create a new Oklahoma Vision Fund long term savings account to invest state revenues from the gross production tax on oil and gas (Sparks – SJR 35).
Our state still faces many challenges, but the Senate Democratic Caucus remains committed to working for a better future for all Oklahomans.”