OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Anti-tax “zombies” in Oklahoma were stopped outside the entrance to the state Capitol on Saturday in a staged event by groups supporting tax increases to prevent cuts to health, education and other services.
The event by Together Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Policy Institute was filmed for videos to be posted on Facebook and Twitter and comes as state lawmakers are in special session to address a $215 million budget hole.
Charles Martin of Together Oklahoma says the group supports increasing gross production taxes on oil and gas from 2 percent to 7 percent, which would raise an estimated $400 million.
The increase has been opposed by the oil and gas industry.
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“Gross production should be the first place that we look,” Martin said. He said the group hopes that oil and gas companies and the wealthy should pay their fair share.
Many Republican lawmakers oppose increasing taxes on oil and gas production and support a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax increase, which Democrats oppose without an energy production tax increase to at least 5 percent.
The special session was called by Gov. Mary Fallin after the state Supreme Court ruled a “fee” on cigarettes passed on the final day of the regular legislative session was unconstitutional.
The special session convened Sept. 25, but recessed two days later because a deal to close the budget hole had not been reached.
Ann Young of Tulsa, one of the volunteers warding off the zombie attack, said political leaders must realize that taxes must be increased to fund basic services including education, teacher pay and health programs.
“Our leaders are fooling themselves if they think that a company like Amazon would ever consider coming to Oklahoma, it’s just absurd that they would think any company like that would come to a place where we can’t even educate our kids,” Young said.
City and Chamber of Commerce officials in Oklahoma City and Tulsa have announced plans to compete for Amazon’s second headquarters in North America, a massive $5 billion project that will eventually include as many as 50,000 high-paying jobs.
Oklahoma Policy Institute coordinator Kara Joy McKee said the goal is to provide information to the public and lawmakers about the need to increase revenue, rather than reducing services.
“Some of our legislators, some of our … friends and neighbors are still under the delusion that we have a spending problem and not a revenue problem,” McKee said.
The Capitol has been closed for the past week because of an ongoing construction project and is scheduled to reopen Monday.