Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt calls special session on tax issues, budget transparency

Senate is likely to resist calls for tax cuts

By: - September 11, 2023 6:28 pm
Gov. Kevin Stitt speaks from the head of a conference table. (Carmen Forman/Oklahoma Voice)

Gov. Kevin Stitt has called lawmakers back into special session to take up tax cuts and other issues. (Photo by Carmen Forman/Oklahoma Voice)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday called a special session on tax cuts, budget transparency and issues related to ongoing litigation over whether tribal citizens are exempt from paying state income taxes in certain situations.

Stitt called the Oklahoma Legislature back to the Capitol on Oct. 3 to put the state “on the path to zero income taxes,” and implement a “trigger law” that says no Oklahomans have to pay a state tax if a court finds that some residents don’t have to pay that tax due to their race, heritage or political classification.

The governor also called on the Legislature to implement financial transparency measures “to ensure that Oklahomans and their elected representatives have the ability and opportunity to see how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.”

“I’m calling on the Legislature to fight for Oklahomans and demand fairness and transparency in our tax system and our budget process,” Stitt said in a news release. “I am also calling on the Legislature to put Oklahoma on a path to zero income tax and give Oklahomans a much-needed tax break.”

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Although lawmakers are required to meet in a special session as a result of the governor’s action, the Senate is likely to resist calls for tax cuts. Both chambers of the Legislature have previously clashed with Stitt on some tribal issues.

When Stitt in May first floated the idea of a special session on tax cuts, Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, was cool to the idea. Some GOP senators are hesitant to cut taxes further for fear that it could leave the state in a vulnerable financial position in the future.

Stitt called lawmakers into a special session on tax cuts last summer. The House passed numerous tax cut proposals, but the Senate adjourned without hearing any of the bills.

Treat declined to comment on Stitt’s call for a special session “out of respect for the victims of 9/11.” Monday marked the 22nd anniversary of the deadly terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said lawmakers in his chamber will follow their constitutional duty and answer Stitt’s special session call.

The governor’s call for a “trigger law” related to taxation is in response to a case before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in which a Muscogee Nation citizen is asking to be exempted from state income taxes because she lives and works on her tribe’s reservation. Stitt has pointed to Alicia Stroble’s case as an example of how he views the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark McGirt decision as dividing Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s tribes have hailed the McGirt decision, which found some tribal reservations were never disestablished, as a win for their sovereignty. The Oklahoma Tax Commission has estimated that the state could lose over $100 million in annual tax revenue if the McGirt decision — which determined the state does not have jurisdiction when certain major crimes occur in Indian Country — is applied to tax issues.

Stitt is still at odds with legislative leaders over tobacco and motor vehicle registration compacts lawmakers voted to extend in a different special legislative session. Litigation over that issue is also before the Oklahoma Supreme Court.


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Carmen Forman
Carmen Forman

Carmen covers state government, politics and health care from Oklahoma City. A Norman native, she previously worked in Arizona and Virginia before she began reporting on the Oklahoma Capitol.