Lobbyist discusses local issues

Curt Roggow, seen in this November 2017 file photo, is political liaison for the city of Enid and a contract lobbyist. (Bonnie Vculek / Enid News & Eagle)

ENID, Okla. — Contract lobbyist Curt Roggow highlighted some locally important bills during an Enid City Commission meeting Tuesday.

"I think municipal legislation is a little less than what it was in year's past. There are two bills that are important to Enid right now," he said.

Senate Bill 1294, by District 19 Sen. Roland Pederson, is a request by the northwest water committee, Roggow said.

In 2005, gross production tax was used to fund the water board in studying basins. He said the board has been able to capitalize on that with studies and research decisions on maximum annual yields. The bill would give the water board some flexibility in the regulations. 

"It's basically good, common sense legislation, and it's going to be a major change within our water laws," Roggow said.

Another issue involves the military, he said.

It involves House Bills 1576 and 1577, and is an issue being worked out with the wind industry, Roggow said. 

The construction or operation of wind energy facilities would be prohibited where it would reasonably disrupt operations of a military base. American Wind Energy Association is being cooperative and involved in the issue, he said. 

The Legislature is back in session, Roggow said.

"They really weren't out of session. We've been in special session for several months already. We've had two special sessions, and before session started we were in special session number two," he said.

In Gov. Mary Fallin's State of the State address, a lot of emphasis was put on the Step Up Oklahoma program, Roggow noted.

"This is the front-burner issue in the Capitol today, no doubt. This is basically a response from the community leaders across Oklahoma to fix our budget shortfall situation. I think a lot of legislators are realizing, possibly, that we need to look at tax increases. In fact, they tried to pass one last fall, and they lacked the three-fourths majority to get it done, just by a few votes," he said. "This one's a little bigger, so it's going to be interesting to see where this goes."

House Bill 1033 is the bill involving the Step Up language, and it was developed in the second special session, Roggow said.

"It's not part of regular session, so it's going to be able to be expedited through the process much faster, on a special session track, not the regular session," he said, adding it was expected to be voted on Thursday in committee. "We're looking at a vote on the House floor Monday, is what I'm hearing. That could change."

One thing being pushed by Step Up is a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax. There would be additional taxes on little cigars and chewing tobacco, Roggow said. 

A large item in the bill involves taxing oil and gas.

Several years ago, tax was 7 percent across the board for gross production. In hard times, the industry was given a break of 2 percent the first 36 months and 7 percent after, he said.

"The oil industry wanted to make that more permanent and it didn't go so well, so they're maybe trying to negotiate a 4 percent on development for 36 months and then go to a 7 percent after," Roggow said. "The oil industry is trying to pull the renewable wind energy into the mix as well, and wanting to charge a tax on top of their ad valorem tax, which, obviously, the wind generation folks don't like. They're fighting that."

A motor fuel tax would involve increasing the rate on diesel and gasoline by 6 cents per gallon, he said.

"We probably fall below the regional average in that category," Roggow said.

The Step Up group is also looking at possibly capping tax credits — mainly pointed at the wind industry, he said.

"The tribes are wanting to get in on the game as well, literally, and add dice and balls to the casino. We don't have, in Oklahoma, the full blown casino that you have in Las Vegas and other states, so they don't have dice at your craps table, they don't have a ball in roulette," Roggow said.

Individual income tax adjustments also are being examined, to bring in another $144 million, he said.

Along with those tax increases, the Step Up group also is looking at reforms.

"With that new revenue, they want to fill the budget shortfall that we're having," Roggow said, adding Step Up Oklahoma is reporting the shortfall is $100 million. "We need a teacher pay raise in Oklahoma."

To do a $5,000 teacher pay raise across the board would cost $285 million, he said.

Another issue being discussed is possibly lowering the super majority threshold. 

State Question 640, passed in 1992, requires a three-quarters majority in the Legislature to increase taxes. The Step Up group wants to see the threshold lowered to 60 percent.

Among other items, the group wants to see a budget stabilization fund, a line item budget, an independent budget office, revenue transparency, revised term limits, increased accountability for state agencies, streamlining state agency boards, governor and lieutenant government reform and Supreme Court reform.

According to estimates, it would be a $750 million revenue creation, Roggow said.

"I've never seen, at the beginning of sessions, such a huge package on the front burner, and such a huge vote. I mean, this is going to be a very monumental, historic vote that takes place," he said. 

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