Senate Democrat Minority Leader Sean Burrage said his caucus would not support any bond proposals this legislative session as long as there’s still a push to cut state income taxes.
Legislative leaders and the governor have discussed the need for a bond package to make much-needed repairs to the State Capitol Building. There’s also been a push for a $40 million bond package to help complete the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City, with some demanding an equal amount for a pop culture museum in Tulsa. No bond proposals have been discussed for rural Oklahoma. Burrage said the question wasn’t about the need for any of these projects.
“The question is how can we even think about accumulating hundreds of millions more in bond debt while talking about cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from state revenue? That’s like taking a pay cut at work and then immediately running up all your credit cards,” said Burrage, D-Claremore. “There is nothing fiscally conservative about this discussion. It is dangerously irresponsible.”
Democrat Caucus Chairman Tom Ivester said the economic outlook has become increasingly uncertain throughout the legislative session because of low natural gas prices.
“We’re looking at trying to finish writing a budget based on $3.64 natural gas prices, but lately they’ve been hovering around $2 and it could end up much lower. If you strictly want to confine the discussion to the immediate needs in education, public safety, transportation and health, we don’t have enough money as it is,” said Ivester, D-Sayre. “We know this for a fact, but there are still folks talking about cutting our revenue stream and going further into debt on these bond issues. It’s like Washington D.C.”
Burrage and Ivester said they would urge fellow members to refuse support for any bond proposal as long as the tax cuts are on the table.
“If this legislature caves to irrational political pressure to cut revenues this year in spite of all of the financial obligations and uncertainties we’re facing, we will absolutely end up with the worst schools, roads and health rates in the nation,” Burrage said. “That isn’t the legacy we are supposed to be creating for the people of Oklahoma.”