House Minority Leader Calls for Inflation Relief

KOKH - July 15, 2022 9:36 am

OKLAHOMA CITY (KOKH) — An Oklahoma House Minority Leader is calling for inflation relief and core services funding with state money originally set aside to lure Panasonic to build a facility in Oklahoma.

Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, proposed gas and grocery tax cuts as part of relief efforts during a press conference on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the Panasonic company announced that Kansas scored the win over Oklahoma to get the company’s new electric vehicle battery plant. Lawmakers had appropriated $700 million in rebates for Panasonic.

Since the deal fell through, the Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition says the money needs to go to students and teachers. Erika Wright, who started the Coalition, is urging the legislature to take the chance to invest in schools. In her view, “Public schools are the tide that raises the ship so to speak, and when you invest in public education, that is economic development.” Wright argues that investing in education will help the state land jobs in the future. “We’ve got to invest in making our public education system better, so that employers want to bring their employees here to live and raise their families,” Wright said.

In a press conference on Thursday, Virgin shared her view that certain laws on the books in Oklahoma are scaring big business away. “We hope that this is a wake-up call for Oklahoma Republicans, we hope it’s a wake-up call for the Governor, that no matter how many tax cuts you provide, no matter how many tax credits you provide, you can’t get these businesses to come here if you have a culture of bigotry and hate.”

Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, agrees with his Democratic colleague’s call for inflation relief amid a tough economy. “I think we do need to start looking at some of these things we can do to get relief back to people at the gas pump, or in the grocery store,” McDugle said.

Wright described how inflation has not left out schools either, and that public education in the state needs relief too. “When you look at inflation rates being around 10 percent, public education got a flat budget this year, so essentially what that translates to is about a ten percent cut,” said Wright.

It remains unclear whether or not lawmakers could decide what to do with the money set aside for the Panasonic deal during the current special session.


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