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Oklahoma lawmakers adjourn session with $12.9 billion budget; veto overrides

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(The Center Square) – Oklahoma lawmakers did not include a grocery tax cut in their $12.9 billion budget requested by Gov. Kevin Stitt, and they overrode several of his vetoes, including one that strips him of the ability to appoint all members of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

The Legislature approved a measure eliminating the franchise tax, which they said would return about $55 million to businesses every year. The bill also eliminated the marriage tax, saving couples about $14.7 million.

Among the vetoes the chambers overrode is House Bill 2263, which would have allowed the House and Senate leaders to appoint two members each to the authority and allow the governor to appoint two. Currently, the governor appoints all six members. The bill also reduced the members’ terms from eight years to six.

Stitt called the bill “unconstitutional” in his veto message.

Lawmakers also overrode Stitt’s veto that removed funding from the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. The governor told Fox News the veto was because of “problematic LBGTQ content.”

After tenuous negotiations, both chambers agreed on an education package that offers teacher pay raises and school choice tax credits. Democrats disagreed with the school choice tax credits and cited them as one of the reasons for their “no” vote against the budget.

“I think the Republican supermajority has simply done a ‘slight of hand’ trick with the budget this year. They put $625 million into education while forcing Oklahomans to pay $700 million for private school tuition for a few wealthy Oklahomans,” said House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City.

Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, who chairs the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, called the budget “historic.”

“We’ve increased education funding by 21.5%, giving teachers another large pay raise and supporting classroom learning and school safety,” Wallace said. “We’ve included more funding for affordable housing, health care and the Rural Economic Transportation Reliability and Optimization Fund as well as many other services to benefit all Oklahomans. We have economic incentives that will bring more investment and thousands of jobs to our state.”

Oklahoma lawmakers said sine die to the regular session but called a special session to vote on the budget. If Stitt vetoes, they have the option of returning at a later date.

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