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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Republican lawmakers at the Oklahoma State Capitol have been talking about tax cuts to fight soaring inflation all year. But could a recent $700 million financial incentive package to draw new business to Oklahoma derail those cuts?

“I don’t know what is going to happen with the grocery tax cut, but Oklahomans need help. Panasonic does not,” said Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City.

Walke is making accusations against a deal signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt on Monday. HB 4455 would set aside almost $700 million dollars for tax rebates to lure Panasonic to build a new electric car battery plant in Oklahoma. But what effect will that have as lawmakers dig into the serious work on this year’s state budget?

“If we move the money over, that’s where we ought to be. I think we need to hold even, hold steady and see what the economy is going to do. So as far as advancing any tax cuts, it’s just not at the top of my priority list,” said Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah.

The Senate Appropriations Chair is referring to various bills that lawmakers have been moving through the Capitol but have not yet passed, including cuts on grocery, personal income and various corporate taxes.

“If you are talking about 7-8-plus percent inflation, Oklahomans need tax relief,” said Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow.

Photo goes with story
Oklahoma legislators speaking about the importance of tax cuts to fight soaring inflation.

Republicans in the House say even after the Panasonic money is set aside, the State would still have $2.7 billion in savings, an all-time record.

“We are in a position where we can do tax relief, we can invest in our state, we can grow our economy,” said Hilbert.

Some lawmakers are stressing caution.

“It was just a couple of years ago that we had a budget failure. We need to see how things level out from the pandemic before we make tax cuts in my mind,” said Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City.

“Yeah, there’s uncertainty for the state of what the economy is going to look like moving forward, but there is uncertainty for Oklahoma families too. They don’t know what tomorrow is going to look like,” said Hilbert.

Democrats in the House say Stitt is looking out for big business not the Oklahoma taxpayer.

“When the budget does come out and you don’t have a grocery tax cut or you don’t have an income tax cut, and that’s because ¾ of a billion dollars went to Panasonic, they need to understand that that’s not our fault. That’s the Republican leadership’s fault,” said Walke.

We reached out to the Governor’s Office; they responded by pointing back to Stitt’s statement after the State Legislature passed 4455, in which he said the following:

“I applaud my colleagues in the Legislature who voted overwhelmingly to pass the LEAD Act with bipartisan support and ensure Oklahoma is positioned to be globally competitive and secure the biggest economic development project in our state’s history. We negotiated a strong, competitive package with safeguards in place to protect taxpayers and ensure a return on this critical investment to diversify and grow Oklahoma’s economy, and I would like to thank Secretary of Commerce Scott Mueller, Speaker McCall, Pro Tem Treat, Speaker Pro Tem Hilbert, Chairman Thompson, and all our partners who worked so hard to get this done.”