Republican Rep. Roger Ford (R-Midwest City) blasted his party’s legislative leaders and their purported revenue “plan” on Facebook hours after it was announced Monday.
“This plan WILL bomb on Wednesday. The vote is going to fail. There is NO plan unless BOTH sides are standing in front of the camera saying they have come to an agreement. We shouldn’t even be in Special Session, because there is NO agreement,” Ford wrote.
Ford continued (screenshot embedded at end):
Our caucus met last night to discuss the plan that was presented this morning. Several of us pushed for a GPT increase to compromise and get this budget deal done. We were told that the Senate will NOT hear a GPT increase. If that is true, they are making the House members take all the hits. My suggestion was let the House vote on it and make Senate be the ones to kill it. I was even called down because I lost my cool, which if you know me, that is out of character. I went to the press conference this morning. I walked away absolutely disgusted. We have been told there are enough D votes to pass this plan. I find that very hard to believe. Democrats have made it perfectly clear they will not vote for any plan that does not include a GPT increase. It’s not on this plan, so there is no way we will have the votes to reach the magical number. It’s not rocket science.
I have been a Republican my entire life, but I refuse to stand here and pat leadership and my party on the back, when they are clearly not handling business. The party I have known and supported is better than this! I’m better than this! The plan presented by the Governor this morning does NOT represent the platforms of either the Republican or Democrat party, so I’m not sure who or what it represents. This has been the most childish process I have ever witnessed and I’m ashamed to be a part of it.
Rep. Roger Ford ‘had the courage to actually say it.’
Tuesday, as lawmakers prepared to hear components of the GOP agreement in the House Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, Ford’s Facebook post remained online, but its message was delighting Democrats and frustrating Republicans.
“I think it’s more representative of where a lot of people in his caucus are, and Rep. Ford had the courage to actually say it. It’s my opinion that the votes are there to pass gross production tax if they put it on the floor, but they’re not allowing it to be on the floor,” said Rep. Eric Proctor (D-Tulsa). “If you talk to rank-and-file members, we’re all on the same page. We know there has to be a compromise. We know there has to be a bipartisan solution.”
House Majority Leader Mike Sanders (R-Kingfisher) agreed there needs to be a bipartisan agreement, but said Democrats’ insistence on gross production taxes is “disingenuous” when documents show even moving the GPT incentive rate to 5 percent yields only about $20 million for new oil and gas wells. The Legislature is attempting to fill a $215 million hole this special session.
“We’re going to light it up (on the board) tomorrow. I’m cautiously optimistic, but we’ll see what happens,” Sanders said. “If you’re for keeping hospitals and nursing homes open, you have to vote yes. If you want to take care of our mentally ill, you have to vote yes. If you’re for putting back the (refundability of) the earned income tax credit to working poor folks, you have to vote yes. If you’re for a teacher pay raise, you have to vote yes. If you’re for a state employee pay raise, you have to vote yes. There’s a little bit of everything in this. Unfortunately, if [Democrats] choose not to, then they are against everything they said they’re supposedly for. To me, I find that disingenuous.”
Rep. Casey Murdock (R-Felt) agreed.
“What’s going on that irritates me to death is we have people playing politics with our health care system. Our health care system should not be held hostage for political gain. By anybody,” Murdock said. “This is a good deal. This funds our health care system. It funds DHS. It funded mental health. It funds the health care authority. It gets teachers a $3,000 pay raise. It gets state employees a $1,000 pay raise. Is it perfect? It may not have everything in it. But it gets us out of special session.”
‘It just makes the Republican Party weaker’
But Murdock expressed frustration with Ford’s controversial Facebook post.
“I’m disappointed. As a Republican, as a Republican Caucus, we need to stick together,” Murdock said. “You may not like the plan, but there is strength in numbers. By caucus members splintering off, it just makes the Republican Party weaker and weaker.”
Sanders was more diplomatic concerning Ford.
“That’s the beauty of our very large and diverse caucus — 72 members strong, 72 different ideas, 72 different opinions,” Sanderson said. “Obviously, Rep. Ford is very passionate and felt that he needed to say some of those things, and he has the right to do that. I probably would have said things differently, but at the end of the day he is an elected official and represents his district, and he has the right to say it.”
Proctor, on the other hand, encouraged more GOP caucus members to speak up.
“I think Rep. Ford showed courage, and if more people in his caucus would do the same thing, we’d have had this thing fixed in May,” Proctor said. “At this point, I don’t have a lot of hope that the leadership and their political backers are going to allow them to have a vote on gross production tax at any level. I think they’ve made that pretty clear. We’ve had four votes on cigarette tax in the last two years, zero votes on gross production tax. I don’t think that’s by accident.”
Sanders blamed the lack of gross production tax votes on Democrats and said they were unwilling to compromise at the end of 2017’s regular session.
“Last year, we had it at 4 percent. The minority leader choose to walk away from that stand-alone GPT raise. Here’s the deal: If you ask any member, including the minority leader, his caucus is not philosophically against any of these things (in the GOP plan),” Sanders said. “We’re talking $6 million raising GPT to 4 percent. It has nothing to do with philosophical philosophies. This is him digging in his heels, choosing to be against our hospitals, choosing to be against our teachers and state employees and choosing to close doors of mental health facilities across Oklahoma.”
Asked why past offers of compromise are not still available if 4 percent GPT was on the table in May, Sanders blamed Democrats.
“You know, at the end of the day, they dug in at 5,” Sanders said. “They will not budge.”
Ford calls for ‘a different tactic’
For his part, Ford said Tuesday that he had yet to receive personal blowback from GOP House leadership over his remarks.
“Not yet. I just spoke my mind, and I feel like I have the right to do that. Obviously the process isn’t working, and we need to take a different tactic,” Ford said. “The press conference (Monday) was the same one we had in May. We need to come together. Both sides need to give a little, take a little, but it’s not working.”
Ford offered a metaphor for how Democrats and Republicans have been negotiating.
“I think the Democrats are like a 10-year-old showing up to the park to play football, and they’ve got the football and (they say), ‘We’re not going to play unless everything is my way,'” Ford said. “To some degree, (Republicans have been) the same way. There is no agreement unless both sides come together. There has to be some give and take.”
Ford said he believes government should run more like a business.
“I know not every aspect of it can run like a business,” he said. “But to some degree, it’s got to be a business. When you make an investment, there’s got to be a return on investment.”
Asked what would happen if a business operated like the current Oklahoma Legislature, Ford was concise: “It’d be broke.”