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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s proposed budget deal will not include an effort at decreasing the state grocery tax to help residents feeling a pinch at their pockets, according to deal reviewed by lawmakers Tuesday.

Consideration for a partial or complete elimination of the state grocery tax came during a time with Oklahomans are paying increasingly higher prices in just about every area, due to historic inflation.

Various measures to cut or eliminate the grocery tax completely were considered during the session, including HB 3349, which would have eliminated the state grocery tax for two years, beginning in July.

As an alternative, lawmakers aim to stimulate the economy with a one-time inflation relief payment, to be distributed to eligible taxpayers based on filing of income tax return and filing statuses, according to the amendment to the Budget Implementation Act of 2022.

Stimulus programs usually aid in invigorating the economy by providing spending money to consumers.

Under the proposed one-time stimulus program, fund distribution would be based on individual income tax returns filed for the 2021 income tax year; $75 will be distributed to those with a single filing status for the 2021 income tax year, and $150 will be doled out to those with a married or joint filing status for that income tax year.

Some lawmakers expressed disappointment in the development, with others citing a need for a more fiscally responsible approach, while minimizing a loss of revenue for the state.

“If we look at all of our income tax or other types of tax cuts, grocery would be the one I would do, but I’m glad we’re not doing it,” said Rep. Julia Kirt in an interview with KFOR Tuesday.

“It could lead to a really hard time down the road for our budgets,” she added, also saying she believed the short term impact of the one-time payments would be beneficial for the state’s economic health.

“I think you will see more discussion on the grocery tax in years to come,” said Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah.

“The main thing is that it’s a continuing relief,” he added.

However, in an interview with KFOR, an economic expert said Oklahomans who could benefit most from the stimulus may not even be eligible.

“You have to file an income tax return in order to even be eligible for those checks they’re planning to send out,” said Steve Agee, an economist specializing in energy policy, banking, monetary theory, and macroeconomic policy and the dean emeritus of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University.

“If you’re a low income person and you don’t file a tax return, you will not receive those checks,” he added, noting that the minimum income threshold for individual tax filers is usually $12,500 and up to $25,200 for joint filers.

“Someone that makes $500,000 a year doesn’t need the same kind of grocery sales tax assistance that someone makes $20,000 a year,” he added, noting the issue prompts additional factors consumers should consider, independently.

“There’s the grocery side and then there’s the inflation side which are two different issues completely,” said Agee.

“In either case I think [the state legislature] should limit who receives the benefit of the state tax relief on the grocery side or the state check revenues that are going to go out on the inflation side,” he added.

To help encourage more Oklahomans to file, Agee said the University offers a free tax assistance service for the community.

Known as Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) , the federal program is usually geared towards low-income filers; and may also provide assistance to people with a disability, and others with limited language skills.

For 2022, the group prepared approximately 75 federal tax returns and 75 state tax returns.