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OK Dems Bail on Budget Talks, Fly to CA for Event Sponsored by Anti-Trump Millionaire

Absence of three lawmakers suggests Dems are “not serious” about negotiating with GOP on budget impasse, speaker says.

Three Oklahoma House Democrats went missing this weekend as legislators met in a rare weekend session to attempt to negotiate the state’s nearly-$1 billion budget hole, just hours before the deadline for passing new revenue lapsed.

It turns out that, even with the deadline looming and their votes needed at the state capitol, the three House Democrats flew to San Francisco for a conference organized by multi-millionaire liberal donor John Koza.

Koza recently cited Donald Trump’s election as reason to oppose the Electoral College and institute a national popular vote:

As the Oklahoma House of Representatives waits to learn if a budget deal could be struck during an unusual Saturday session 36 hours before the new-revenue deadline, three members of the 26-member Democratic caucus are at a conference in California.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City) said today that Rep. Eric Proctor (D-Tulsa), Rep. Cory Williams (D-Stillwater) and Rep. Shane Stone (D-OKC) told him they would not be at the Oklahoma State Capitol this weekend, but he said he did not know they were out of state. … Proctor, Williams and Stone spoke to NonDoc together by speaker phone. The three said they are attending an Institute for Research on Presidential Elections conference.

In a press conference yesterday, House Speaker Charles McCall blasted the missing legislators, saying it indicated that Democrats are “not serious” about negotiating a fix to the big budget hole:

McCall held a press conference after Inman, saying that an oil industry executive told both men that a raise to 5 percent GPT on new wells would trigger large industry layoffs. He criticized the three Democrats for their travel to San Francisco.

“It tells me that they’re not serious. It tells me that they don’t want to get this budget put together,” McCall said. “We could have a vote on the floor of the House today with 1) an agreement on a package, and 2) with them delivering at least 75 percent of their caucus.”

John Koza – a major Democrat donor to Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Harry Reid, and the main player behind the group organizing the Oklahoma Democrats’ trip – recently cited Donald Trump’s election victory in November as a key reason to ditch the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote:

The fact that it appears the winner of the 2016 election, Donald Trump, was not supported by a majority of voters dictates that we elect our next president by popular vote.

Meanwhile, Democrat House Leader Scott Inman – who last month declared his candidacy for governor and is leading the charge for higher energy taxes – appears to be telling a misleading story on whether all the Democrats were actually in the state and ready to vote on a potential deal this weekend:

Inman said “they were” at the Capitol on Friday, but the trio said they left Oklahoma about 6 a.m. Friday. … The members’ absence means that, this weekend, Inman could not deliver the 26 floor votes he has promised for a 5 percent gross production tax deal even if it were agreed to and moved through committee today by Republicans.

“It doesn’t matter,” Inman said. “In order to make this work, I’ve told them if we can strike a deal and we run it through concurrent special session, I’ll have all 26 of my votes there Monday.”

But House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-OKC) disagreed and said he did not know Democratic votes — key to any tax package — were unavailable today. “Leader Inman has never told that to [me], and it’s very disappointing,” Echols said. “He has always told us he could deliver all 26 of his members, and if he can’t, that would be news.”

He said he has been negotiating in good faith with Inman and believed everyone understood that lawmakers needed to be available this weekend for votes.

After the failure of the weekend session, Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK) will reportedly call for a special session to continue revenue negotiations.