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Senate Leaders Say Focus Should Remain on Public Safety

Senate leaders said Wednesday they are disappointed House Speaker Todd Hiett is focusing on tax cuts targeted for wealthy Oklahomans rather than addressing the safety of all of the state’s citizens.

“Our efforts should be focused on keeping Oklahomans safe,” President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan said. “The Speaker has had more than enough time to review a comprehensive plan to fund corrections put forth by Senate Democrats six weeks ago.”

Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Subcommittee Chairman Kenneth Corn said he is not surprised by the House Republicans’ attempt to change the subject from corrections to tax cuts. He said today’s tax cut announcement is simply the latest effort by House leaders to focus on anything but public safety.

“House leaders have made it no secret that they want to wait until next year to address corrections funding. Meanwhile violence continues to plague our prisons and threaten our sense of security in communities throughout Oklahoma,” Corn (D-Poteau) said. “By focusing on tax cuts today, rather than coming to the table to hammer out a solution to the public safety crisis, House Republicans are sending a message across this state that says they will continue to ignore the safety of Oklahoma families.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jay Paul Gumm, who helped craft the largest tax cut in state history last spring, said he will review the Republican tax cut plan, but believes that any further tax cuts should be targeted to help working families rather than the wealthiest of Oklahomans.

“On the surface, this appears to leave out Oklahoma’s working families, and that is just not good policy,” said Gumm, a Democrat from Durant. “I am more interested in lifting up the working families who struggle every month to make ends meet.”

Gumm, an Assistant Senate Majority Leader, said the Legislature needed to put money back into the pockets of the people who need it the most: working families. He said when Republicans touted the estate tax as an “envy” tax during their Wednesday morning press conference, they demonstrated they intend to engage in a class war, turning their backs on working families.

“However, before we even begin to think about tax cuts for next year, we need to meet our responsibility toward public safety this year.” Gumm added. “This is premature until we pass Senator Corn’s corrections plan that will make Oklahoma’s families safer.”

Morgan, D-Stillwater, agreed.

“To continue to change the subject and ignore the public safety crisis is irresponsible,” he said. “If House leaders continue down this road, I may have no choice but to call Senators back to the Capitol to deal with the public safety issue.”

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