November 8, 2017
Special statement from Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker released the following statement today, urging Oklahoma lawmakers to reach a bipartisan budget agreement to end a prolonged special legislative session that’s now lasted more than six weeks. Gov. Mary Fallin called for the special session after revenue measures passed last spring were struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
The most current revenue measure, House Bill 1054x, is endorsed by Governor Fallin and calls for increased taxes on tobacco, low-point beer, gasoline and diesel and an increase on the gross production tax from 2 percent to 4 percent on the first 36 months of some newly drilled oil wells.
“We are Cherokees, but at the end of the day, we are also Oklahomans. This agreement isn’t perfect, but it’s a start. Without a budget deal, people in this state will suffer. There is no maybe about it. It’s a reality that many of Oklahoma’s youngest, oldest and most vulnerable citizens will be left out in the cold. Not funding government services means thousands of homebound seniors won’t receive in-home nursing care or their only warm meals of the day. Kids in foster homes won’t be properly monitored and could fall through the cracks of a broken system. Our schools would remain underfunded, and the exodus of teachers fleeing Oklahoma for a better standard of living would continue.
“No compromise is ever perfect, but HB1054x is the best opportunity to move our state forward at this time. This bill helps fund many core services and safeguard some of our state’s most vulnerable individuals from further harmful cuts. It also provides a long overdue and well-deserved teacher and state employee pay raise, while also re-implementing the earned income tax credit to provide relief for low-income Oklahomans. These are all admirable endeavors and a good start to get our state functioning again.
“While HB1054x helps alleviate our budget crisis with some recurring revenue, it still relies heavily on regressive taxes that are disproportionately funded by working class people and leaves our state in a similar situation for next fiscal year – facing a several hundred million dollar budget deficit on day one. We can do better, and we should do better, for all Oklahomans. So while I support this plan to fund our state for now, I implore our legislature to return next year and get serious about getting our state on the right track. That means making tough decisions that don’t come at the detriment of those who have the most to lose. It’s time to put partisan politics aside and put the people of this state first. Wado, and God bless the people of our great state.”