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Oklahoma House Democrats Release Their Own Budget As Republican Talks Continue

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While Republican leaders in the Oklahoma legislature continue to hash out a budget with adjournment two and a half weeks out, House Democrats released on Tuesday their own $9 billion spending plan.

The proposal counters their House Republican counterparts’ push for an additional $135 million for common education with a $200 million boost to the funding formula, along with additional increases to hire school counselors and offer pay incentives. Tulsa Rep. Melissa Provenzano said Republicans have already made changes opposed by educators this session, like basing funding on just the prior year’s attendance.

"Now we’re hearing whispers that vouchers and tax credits are perhaps sneaking back into our budget. Again, what if we listened to what education professionals say they actually need? Public schools choose everyone. It’s time we choose our kids," Provenzano said.

Oklahoma City Rep. Forrest Bennett said Democrats' budget includes a number of items related to the pandemic, including $50 million in hazard pay for first responders and $50 million in rental assistance.

"Thousands of Oklahoma families are, today, staring at a fiscal crisis that they had nothing to do with. We propose also a tax deduction on up to $10,000 of unemployment payments because while the pandemic has been devastating, it is temporary, but a lot of Oklahomans have lost jobs permanently," Bennett said.

Other priorities in House Democrats’ plan include funding the justice system so it doesn’t need fines and fees, and restoring the Earned Income Tax Credit without cutting taxes for the wealthy.

The House passed a bill in March to reduce personal income taxes by 0.25% across the board that included a provision to make the Earned Income Tax Credit refundable again, meaning Oklahomans claiming it would get money back if their tax liability went below $0. That bill did not, however, get a Senate committee hearing.

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