Following his decision to not seek reelection, State Representative Pat Ownbey (R-Ardmore) will get back to basics as he enters his tenth and final year of serving District 48.
Ownbey said his legislative agenda is simple, get Oklahoma’s budget back to where it needs to be.
“For me, the issue is to put Oklahoma on the right path when it comes to the budget,” Ownbey said. “If we can get that done then we’ll be light-years ahead, or really, back to where we should be.”
With a special session set for later this month, Ownbey said the likely first step would be raising the current gross production tax rate for horizontal drilling during the first 36 months of the well. Legislators have proposed increasing the rate from 2 percent to 4 percent. The rate returns to the pre-incentive level of 7 percent after the 36-month period.
“In my view we could even go further, but it’s a good step,” Ownbey said. “There’s some 5 billion dollars worth of new drilling in our state. Of the oil producing states, we’re still the cheapest by far when it comes to gross production tax. That’s money and minerals we have in the ground. I don’t think we need to overcharge, but I think we need to be smart.”
Ownbey said the gross production tax rate has been a ‘sticky’ issue since 2014, but he’s hopeful to continue the progress on the agreement starting this month.
“There’s a coalition we’re working with right now, that if we get an agreement — it will involve oil and wind and some of these other issues that have been holding us up — where everybody is at the table, to say ’what can we do to right this issue? Because we’re all part of the state of Oklahoma.’ To me that’s the best-case scenario,” Ownbey said.
Ownbey said updating the gross production tax won’t  single-handedly fix the state’s ongoing issues with the budget deficit, but it would be a good start. Adding that if the state could secure funding, then much needed improvements for infrastructure could be made.
“If you want good roads and bridges, we’re going to have to fund them,” Ownbey said. “I think we have the ability to do that with very minimal impact.”
Ownbey, in his last year in the legislature, enters the session without the added pressure of an upcoming campaign and election.
In his 10 years of representing District 48, Ownbey said he’s never felt pressure to vote along party lines for the sake of reelection. He’s even open to the legalization of medical marijuana if regulated correctly. State Question 788, which would allow the possession and medical use of marijuana in Oklahoma, will go before voters in July.
“If it’s done correctly and it’s truly done medically, not to just use for ‘I have a headache,’ I think there are instances where it could help,” Ownbey said. “But I do think it has to be regulated properly. That’s my biggest concern. From the medical perspective, I don’t have a problem with it. And hopefully it will be regulated properly - we need to make sure it is.”
The state Legislature will return to regular session on Feb. 6.