OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Governor has called for a special session on tax cuts beginning October 3.
While the Senate President Pro Tempore is hesitant in voting yes, the Speaker of the House fully stands behind tax cuts.
In Governor Stitt’s call for special session, he called the Legislature to deliver on the following priorities:
- A trigger law mandating that if a state or federal court finds that some individuals, due to their race, heritage, or political classification, don’t have to pay a state tax, then no Oklahoman will have to pay the tax.
- A tax cut that puts Oklahoma on the path to zero income taxes. This will keep us in line with surrounding Republican-led states.
- A measure that increases budget transparency to ensure that Oklahomans and their elected representatives have the ability and opportunity to see how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.
Eliminating state income tax would cost Oklahoma’s budget roughly $4B, according to Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat.
According to the state’s website, Oklahoma collected a total of $5,244,943,311 in personal taxes during FY23.
“We need real answers. What schools is he going to close? Which public safety programs are we going to cancel? Are the tax credits that we just passed for school choice… Do we have to rescind some of those? Because $4B is a huge part of our budget,” stated Pro Tem Treat.
On the flip side, Speaker of the House Charles McCall said he stands behind the Governor’s request for tax cuts ultimately leading to a total elimination of state income tax.
“The House believes that we should give the people, the state of Oklahoma relief by lowering personal income tax,” stated Speaker McCall. “There needs to be a cut right now. We can afford it. We should do it. It’s long overdue.”
The Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed tax cuts before, including a grocery sales income tax and a personal income tax this year.
“Those have been a priority for the House of Representatives for the last couple of years,” said Speaker McCall.
However, both tax cuts never made it out of the Senate and to the Governor’s desk for signing which begs the question if the Governor’s most recent tax cut request will survive this go-round.
“We are not considering taking the rate to zero immediately,” added Speaker McCall. “We’ve been on that path, that trajectory for four years.”
Nine states are currently income tax free, including Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming.
Alaska is the only state to have ever repealed an existing income tax. The other eight states never had a state income tax to begin with.
While Pro Tem Treat is wanting more clarification in what the Governor’s goals are with his call for a special session, Speaker McCall said the call is crystal clear.
“I read the call to be fairly, very specific. We anticipated the tax cut to be in the call. The other two items, we didn’t have really a lot of notice about those. No discussions with the Governor or the Governor’s office on those ahead of time. So in terms of being vague, I think the tax cut is pretty straightforward,” said Speaker McCall.
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The Governor’s Communications Director, Abegail Cave told KFOR the call for special session is anything but vague.
“1) If some Oklahomans don’t pay taxes, then no Oklahomans pay taxes, 2) We need to put Oklahoma on a path to zero income tax, 3) Oklahomans should know how their tax dollars are being spent. Furthermore, if the Governor’s call is ‘vague’ then there is no question that the Legislature’s special session call earlier this summer lacked the necessary specificity Oklahoma law requires only of a special session called by the Legislature,” explained Cave.
To gain more clarity though, Pro Tem Treat has invited the Governor to an Appropriations Committee meeting on October 3.
The Speaker doesn’t plan to follow in his footsteps.
“It’s time to give the people of the state of Oklahoma a break,” said Speaker McCall. “I don’t believe this is going to be a hard issue for the House of Representatives at all.”
The special session on tax cuts will begin Tuesday, October 3.
The Governor’s call for action cannot be modified in any way. Legislators will only discuss what has been listed in his call.
It takes a minimum of five days for a piece of legislation to constitutionally reach the Governor’s desk. With the special session starting on Tuesday, a law on tax cuts may not be signed within the week.
The trigger law portion of the Governor’s request stems from a pending court case, according to Pro Tem Treat.
Muskogee citizen, Alicia Stroble is pushing for tribal members who live on reservation land to be exempt from state income taxes. No decision has been made in that case.
If a Judge rules in favor of Stroble, Pro Tem Treat said the state would lose $120M-$200M in state income taxes.
Pro Tem Treat said he opposes Stroble’s case, but if a Judge rules against the state, he would rather lose the $120M-$200M than a possible $4B.
“I find it interesting that the Governor is willing to forfeit $4 billion and compromise education, health care, public safety, transportation because he’s upset potentially about a hypothetical case that may go against us,” said Pro Tem Treat.