Oklahoma House Republicans Question Leader’s Conservatism

By: - December 6, 2010 12:00 am

Some conservative Republicans in the Oklahoma House of Representatives have threatened to rebel against Kris Steele , their caucus’s new leader, beause he said the legislature should focus primarily on economic development this year, the Oklahoman reports . Steele has been presumed to be the House’s next speaker, since he won a vote from the Republican majority. His priorities include tort law revision and an overhaul of the state’s workers’ compensation system. The conservatives are hoping for a broader agenda, including Arizona-style immigration restrictions, a bill allowing firearms to be carried openly on college campuses, and new restrictions on abortion. Some say their support for Steele is contingent on his making a pledge to address those issues. The difference is mostly a matter of focus-Steele generally takes conservative positions on social issues. He is now trying to repair the damage. “We will continue to promote and champion traditional values,” he told the Oklahoman . “These economic issues and the fiscally conservative policies will not come at the expense of social conservative issues.”

Backup tapes in Connecticut hold as many as 161 million state government e-mails. Now it’s up to incoming governor Dan Malloy to decide what to do with them, the Hartford Courant reports . Earlier this year, the state’s top technology official drafted a policy under which the tapes will be destroyed after 60 days, but the policy hasn’t been implemented. That means that the administration of Malloy-a Democrat who is succeeding Republican Jodi Rell-most likely will determine the fate of the potential treasure trove of government records.

Nevada lawmakers now have a clearer idea of the situation they’ll face as they try to balance the budget next year. It isn’t pretty. The Economic Forum, an independent panel that the state charges with revenue forecasting, projects that Nevada will have around $5.3 billion to spend in the upcoming biennium. That’s about  billion less than the state is spending in the current biennium and $3 billion less than state agencies have requested, the  Las Vegas Journal-Review reports . Last month, voters elected Brian Sandoval as governor. Sandoval, like his predecessor, fellow-Republican Jim Gibbons, has vowed not to raise taxes. Voters, though, also returned Democratic majorities to both houses of the legislature-Democrats have fought to preserve public services. The result is likely to be a fierce battle over the budget. “If they do cuts without revenue enhancements, then holy hell will break out,” one advocate told the Review-Journal .

A major overhaul of Vermont’s tax code may be coming, spurred by the report of a bipartisan commission, the Burlington Free Press reports . The commission’s work centers on broadening the base for both sales and income taxes and lowering their rates at the same time. Presently untaxed services are being recommended for sales tax coverage. The commission also suggests that for the purposes of the state income tax, personal income be calculated without deductions for federal exemptions. That would allow the state to lower its unusually high top 8.95 percent income tax rate without losing revenue. The three members of the commission were appointed in 2009 by Governor Jim Douglas, a Republican, and the leaders of the state House and Senate, both Democrats. The Democratic leader in the Senate at the time was Peter Shumlin , who now is the governor-elect. “Our tax structure discourages job growth. I’m looking for creative new ideas that can help us grow jobs,” Shumlin said, according to the Free Press -though he hasn’t committed to backing the commission’s proposals.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is declaring a fiscal emergency and calling legislators into a special session to address the $6 billion gap that has emerged in this year’s budget. Majority Democrats in the legislature, though, are likely to ignore him, the Los Angeles Times reports . Democrats have been displeased with Schwarzenegger’s line-item vetoes of spending they’ve approved. With Jerry Brown , a Democrat, set to succeed Schwarzenegger next month, they have little incentive to deal with the outgoing administration, despite the state’s dire budget problems. 

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Josh Goodman

Josh Goodman helps lead research on fiscal management and place-based economic development programs as part of Pew’s state fiscal health project. Goodman has served as a primary author for Pew studies that examine how states should evaluate tax incentives and maintain budget discipline when implementing those incentives.