House Democrats holding operating budget back, won’t vote

Rep. Charisse Millett, Republican House Minority leader, argues against HB-111, a Democrat-sponsored bill to increase oil taxes. Earlier, she was dismayed that the House Democrats tabled the operating budget, holding up progress on the one mandate the Legislature has.

The House debated oil and gas tax credits on the House floor today.

House Bill 111 is the 43rd oil and gas tax restructuring bill to be offered in the Legislature in the past nine years, pointed out House Minority Leader Charisse Millett, who said she would be a no vote. It has passed, 21-19.


What isn’t up for a vote is the only thing the House absolutely has to do constitutionally: Pass a budget.

The state’s operating budget came back from the Senate to the House for an up or down vote, and today it was put back in the “limbo pile,” rather than move forward. The Democrat-run majority simply voted to hold the bill.

House Republicans were mystified. After all, the budget cannot be hammered out in conference committee if the House doesn’t vote it up or down.

With five days to go until the 90-day session is supposed to end, there is no end in sight. No conference committee. No budget. And no sense of urgency from the House majority Democrats.

“Refusing to send the budget to conference committee — that is children digging in their heels and throwing a tantrum,” said former Rep. Mike Hawker, who has been observing the proceedings from afar.

“Conference committee is a ministerial and routine step forward, where you can start debating the differences in a formal setting. For them to not do this is childish.” – Mike Hawker

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz argues in favor of increased oil taxes today on the House floor, saying HB-111 is a good bill: “It’s our oil.”

The operating budget should already be in conference committee, he said. “Everyone knows the sequence of events that must occur — the House passes the operating budget, sends it to the Senate, and the Senate does what it does and sends it back. Then the House says, ‘we don’t like that,’ and they all sit down at the conference table and debate it.”


HB-111 restructures and dismantles Senate Bill 21. It is a three- to four-fold increase in taxes when oil prices are low.

The genesis behind HB-111 was to adjust the cash flow credits, but has now become a minimum tax.

“We’ve made modest changes,” said Rep. Geran Tarr, before the House voted along caucus lines, 21-19 in favor of a bill that was introduced just four days earlier. No public testimony was taken, and industry leaders were not allowed to provide comment.

It’s likely when HB-111 arrives at the Senate for consideration, it will receive a cool response.