OKLAHOMA CITY — On Friday (May 19) at the state capitol, leaders of Oklahoma’s healthcare, education, oil & natural gas, and business communities gathered to call on legislators to approve a revenue package that has been discussed. The package — $1.50 per pack tax on cigarettes, a 6 cent per gallon increase in motor fuels taxes, and an increase to 3 percent in the Gross Production tax from the current 2 percent during the first 36 months of operation and eliminating $46.3 million in oil & gas incentives — has been widely discussed at the capital in recent days.
These Oklahomans, represent tax consumers and taxpayers. In a press release, participants agreed it was time to set politics aside and pass a budget.
“We cannot fail to have a budget,” stated Bruce Lawrence, President and CEO of Integris, who was speaking on behalf of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, “Without added revenue, the health care infrastructure of our state would be decimated.”
In regards to education funding, Tom Friedemann, Superintendent of Francis Tuttle Technology Center said, “Supplying Oklahoma companies with well-trained employees is a major point of emphasis at Francis Tuttle Technology Center. Well-trained workers become productive citizens who contribute throughout their careers to the betterment of our state. Investing in career education is an investment that will enable businesses of all sizes and types to have the people resources they need to keep growing for years to come.”
Tim Wigley, OIPA executive Vice President of governmental affairs stated, “Oklahoma’s oil and natural gas industry supports almost a quarter of the state’s economy by capitalizing on our unique geology and technological advances made right here in our state. The oil and natural gas industry understands its role as the state’s defining industry, and are willing to find legislative compromise to move our state forward. However, efforts to increase the gross production tax to levels that jeopardize investment in our state’s historic oilfields jeopardizes the state’s future and puts the jobs of working Oklahomans that work in the oilfield at risk.”
Speaking for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, President and CEO Roy Williams stated “This is far from a perfect deal, but we cannot risk cuts to core services. Business leaders growing and bring jobs need to know this state will fund education, health care, roads, bridges, and core needs.”
Speaking on behalf of the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers, Nico Gomez said “Our industry is in a crisis. We’ve experienced over $93 million in budget cuts since 2010, which has led to the closure of about one quarter of our homes. Many of our facilities are in jeopardy of closing even without further cuts, because of the state’s extremely low Medicaid rate for nursing homes. We need help. We need a budget deal that adequately funds us. We need our legislators to work together and do their job.”
Fred Morgan CEO of The State Chamber of Oklahoma echoed that sentiment. “As Oklahomans, we need government to work. It is time to put politics aside and do the work of the people. No doubt, this is a difficult process. But those paying taxes have stepped forward. Those who provide services have shown where they can cut.”
Each speaker ended their discussion with the following statement: “We have all compromised. It’s time to cut a deal. We cannot risk draconian cuts.”
Participants included representatives from these organizations:
Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers
Oklahoma Hospital Association
Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians
The State Chamber of Oklahoma
Oklahoma Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
The Greater Oklahoma City of Commerce
Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association
Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association
Oklahoma State Medical Association, and
Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy.