When capitol insiders began smelling massive new tax plans, Americans For Prosperity-OK and Oklahoma Council On Public Affairs decided to gather in every ally they could. They reached out to Grassroots Tea Party groups, Social media groups, and every media outlet they could muster.
The stakes were high.
These Conservative groups found themselves fighting much of the Republican Party establishment, and with no overt support from Republican Party officials. This, despite the fact that just 3 days earlier, the Republican State Convention's rank & file rejected a watered down platform and effectively asserted a very definitive 2015 platform which was to be retained as the party's official position on tax policy and opposition to the growth of government.
When the brazen effort to institute an Obamacare state exchange was added to a Tobacco Tax bill, the activists were on the capitol grounds and ready to expose the cryptic language.
Senator Jolley immediately pulled the bill off the docket and called an emergency committee meeting where the clause was stripped. The Tobacco Tax bill was passed that afternoon. The next night, that Tobacco Tax hit a bizarre chain of events in the House.
The Democrats in the House staged a "sit in" of sorts. They actually refused to raise any taxes UNLESS an Obamacare state exchange was first agreed to.
This bolstered the Tea Party faction in the House to fight any tax increase, insisting that significant cuts in state government be also brought into the negotiations as a condition.
Fortunately, the Oklahoma Constitution requires a 3/4 majority for the legislature to raise taxes. But in the end it wasn't close. The 101 member chamber teetered at around 50-50 until the final seconds. That's when Representatives, seeing the failure, switched their vote to 'No', so they could not be found out as being on the side of raising tobacco taxes by $1.50 per pack.
This threw the process into a tailspin. The next issue was then revealed to be a 'shell bill', where the authors would write a massive expansion of the state sales tax, to include most, if not all services.
Tradesmen and their organizations across the state then mobilized. Plumbers, family doctors, Tow Truck drivers, painters, all argued that their hour of work billed to the customer is already subject to income tax. To double the tax on their services (income tax & sales tax) would make their essential services just that much more inaccessible to many of their customers.
The anti-tax forces greatly bolstered the confidence of Tea Party Legislators and their ranks began to grow.
This afternoon, the House went home for the weekend. The leadership was satisfied that they had attained all the new revenues they were going to get. The budget is being crafted and will reflect roughly a 3% drop, over all. But Healthcare and other priorities will be spared any cuts, according to Speaker Hickman and Rep Earl Sears.
Read More at: Middleground News