Former Democrat Mike Cantrell, co-chairman of the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance (OEPA), recently compared Republican lawmakers to Judas for opposing the tax hike his organization is backing.
As Oklahoma’s legislative session comes to a close, activists calling for an increase in the state’s gross production tax on oil and gas are engaging in some extreme hyperbole as the debate to close an estimated $800 million budget gap continues.
Longtime capital insider Mike Cantrell, who leads a group of older, vertical drillers, recently compared state Republican lawmakers to Judas for opposing the tax hike his organization is backing.
Talking to NewsOK last week, Cantrell blasted potential compromise legislation being considered at the state capital in Biblical terms:
“[I]f you sell us out, at least get the full 30 pieces of silver.” He went on to say, “Don’t sell us out cheap. These big companies are offering revenue. I call it political blackmail, but some say that’s just making a deal.”
This is the second time in a week that Cantrell’s rhetoric has raised eyebrows. Cantrell, who in recent months helped his clients split off from the larger Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association in order to advocate for higher taxes on others in the energy industry, last week compared he and his allies to America’s Founding Fathers, saying:
“We’ve been called a splinter group. You know, the Founders (of this country) were a splinter group, so I think we’re in pretty good company.”
Cantrell’s escalated rhetoric reflects a fierce debate over how to close Oklahoma’s budget shortfall, drawing in the involvement of liberal Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser, who has donated some $715,000 to a state think tank, the Oklahoma Policy Institute, to advocate for the tax increases. This week, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Kaiser has avoided paying millions in taxes himself over the years.
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