‘Long overdue’: House speaker says Oklahoma can afford tax cuts
The head of the state Senate has urged caution on tax reform
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, told reporters that the time is right for state lawmakers to cut personal income taxes. (Photo by Carmen Forman/Oklahoma Voice)
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s House speaker on Thursday said the state is long overdue for personal income tax cuts.
House Speaker Charles McCall’s attitude toward cutting taxes could spur friction between his chamber and the state Senate during an upcoming special legislative session on tax issues and budget transparency.
When Gov. Kevin Stitt called the Oct. 3 special session, he requested lawmakers put the state on a path toward eliminating personal income taxes.
In a news conference, McCall, R-Atoka, said he agrees with the idea. The state could phase out the tax over time by implementing a trigger system to make periodic cuts in strong budget years, he said.
“There needs to be a cut right now,” McCall said. “We can afford it. We should do it. It’s long overdue.”
State lawmakers last cut personal income taxes in 2021 with a 0.25% cut to all tax brackets taking effect the following year.
Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City has been critical of Stitt’s decision to call a special session and said lawmakers should not make any hasty tax cuts. Eliminating the personal income tax would reduce annual tax collections by roughly $4 billion, which could result in cuts to state services, Treat said.
House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, said Stitt has turned to political grandstanding in an attempt to gain a foothold in the national spotlight.
“A special session is not the appropriate avenue to address the loss of billions of dollars in revenue with potential threats to public safety, schools and roads that would result from the elimination of state income taxes,” she said in a statement.
Residents are likely to spend more money following a tax cut, which would allow the state to collect more sales tax revenue, McCall said. An Oklahoma Policy Institute analysis released Thursday indicated it would be virtually impossible for the state to eliminate personal income taxes and then make up that lost revenue through sales taxes.
Proponents of eliminating the income tax say the move could entice more people and businesses to move to Oklahoma, which would be a boon for the economy.
“For Oklahoma to be competitive, and to have a robust and strong economy, this Legislature … and future Legislatures are going to have to figure out the way to get that rate to zero,” McCall said.
Stitt and McCall have said the time is right for tax cuts because Oklahoma has more than $4 billion in state savings accounts.
Stitt is also calling for the Legislature to implement budget transparency measures and pass a “trigger law” that exempts all Oklahoma residents from state income taxes should a court decide some Native American residents are exempt.
The House GOP caucus has not discussed those issues, McCall said.
Lawmakers are open to the idea of greater transparency on budget issues so long as Stitt is open to a conversation about increasing the transparency of the executive branch, he said.
McCall said he will talk with Treat soon about the special session details.
“We’ll find out very, very soon if the House and the Senate are on the same page and what legislation might look like for the special session,” he said.
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