After Oklahoma’s two largest oil and gas industry associations sent a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin opposing gross production tax increases, the governor’s chief of staff pleaded for the industry to “be for something” and noted that Fallin has been “the biggest supporter of your industry over the last several years.”
Pasted below, the late-September email from Fallin’s chief of staff, Chris Benge, was widely discussed among industry leaders.
NonDoc published the industry’s original letter Oct. 3. It had been sent to Fallin jointly by the Oklahoma Oil & Gas Association and the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association.
In that letter, OKOGA president Chad Warmington and OIPA president Tim Wigley wrote: “It is a shame that after job creators put their capital to work in Oklahoma, they are then punished by the state.”
The letter also referred to Fallin’s proposed grand bargain as the “Fallin-Inman tax plan,” thus tying her to House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City), who has aggravated Republicans and industry leaders during budget negotiations.
NonDoc was told of Benge’s response to the OKOGA and OIPA letter, and the governor’s office provided a copy Oct. 16 after a formal request.
‘She has supported oil and gas at every turn!’
OKOGA, OIPA tell Fallin they are ‘punished by the state’ by William W. Savage III
In his email, Benge specifically addresses Arnella Karges, OKOGA’s executive vice president, although people familiar with the email have said roughly a half-dozen energy leaders were looped.
Benge defends Fallin’s attempts to find budget compromise, and in doing so says, “She has supported oil and gas at every turn!” As an example, he writes that Fallin “… has worked to maintain a regulatory environment that allows the free flow of commerce and job creation. This approach included taking some serious bullets over the seismicity issue.”
A former Speaker of the House, Benge concludes by asking industry leaders to identify revenue ideas they can support and “… to participate in a way that can help us solve these problems.”
The full email provided by the governor’s office follows:
The governor has been the biggest supporter of your industry over the last several years. We acknowledge all of the contributions you list in the letter, and I would add that our oil and gas sector is the greatest example of American ingenuity, grit, and determination. Governor Fallin believes that strongly and has worked to maintain a regulatory environment that allows the free flow of commerce and job creation. This approach included taking some serious bullets over the seismicity issue. She stood strong and demanded that the state take a thoughtful approach to address the increase in seismic activity, and avoided the typical knee jerk response that was demanded by industry critics.
She has supported oil and gas at every turn!
We take your letter seriously, but it is disappointing that you all are engaging in demagoguery by calling it the Fallin-Inman plan. That is highly offensive.
As I think you are aware, I have had continual discussions with Chad about focusing on a workable solution to our current problems and have asked if there is some revenue options you all can support. We personally do not like the idea of being more dependent on gross production revenues to the state because of their volatile nature. I believe that philosophy has played out all year as we did not include an increase in gross production taxes in the Governor’s executive budget last session, and we have continued to make the point that ideally we should introduce more stable sources of revenue, such as taxing a wide variety of services, fuel taxes, income taxes on high earners, and the cigarette tax. I will make a plea that you be for something to address the problem.
Are there other components of the package that you can support? I know your members are as concerned about our schools, healthcare facilities, transportation system, and keeping our streets safe as we are. We would invite you to participate in a way that can help us solve these problems. Engaging in the negative, as you have done by tying Governor Fallin with Scott Inman, is not constructive.
Believe me, we do not like being in this position. But we take our responsibility to govern seriously. It is common these days in our political discourse to see hard lines drawn in the sand which only serve to create almost insurmountable barriers to accomplishing the people’s business. I would ask you to find something you can support.
If your team would like a meeting to discuss I am happy to oblige.
To review details of a “grand bargain” document that Fallin’s office has distributed to lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, read more here.