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Still no answer for the budget deficit

Our state legislature has four days until it adjourns and there aren’t any major signs of progress on the budget deficit (KTUL).

Oklahoma City, Okla. (KTUL) – Our state legislature has four days until it adjourns and there aren’t any major signs of progress on the budget deficit.

This state is more than a billion dollars short and time is running out when it comes to filling that hole.

Lawmakers are looking at increasing the gross production tax on oil and gas, ending tax credits and increasing the tax on cigarettes.

The legislators we spoke with aren’t aware of any breakthroughs in the negotiations between key legislative leaders.

However, a number of people expressed concerns that the chief executive officers of oil companies have been allowed to take part in those talks by phone.

Democratic State Representative Monroe Nichols of Tulsa said that’s a clear conflict of interest.

Nichols said, “We have special interests there, right in the middle of an important negotiation of how we're going to fund our schools.”

Assistant Democratic Leader Eric Proctor of Tulsa said it’s time for oil companies to pay their fair share.

Proctor said, "It is our position, they are part of this state too and they need to be paying as much as every other tax payer."

Many lawmakers support a plan to increase the gross production tax from two percent to five percent.

That would still be lower than the tax rates in many other oil-producing states.

Many lawmakers tell us they would accept the five percent tax, in exchange for being more flexible when it comes to increasing cigarette taxes.

But when the budget is finally rewritten, it will probably take more than a few big-ticket changes to provide enough funding.

Republican State Representative Carol Bush of Tulsa said the constituents in midtown have made it clear they want something done.

She said that may mean revenue increases from a lot of different areas.

"If everybody pays a little some way, somehow, it makes it more palatable to do this,” Bush said.

He is freshman in this legislative session and she said she’s been surprised by the volume of work the lawmakers face, and the intensity of the debate over the issues.

Right now, lawmakers would need action from Governor Mary Fallin to vote on any funding legislation.

The deadline for those votes has passed, so she could extend it, or authorize a special session to begin after Friday.

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