OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State legislators are voting this week on the finalized budget bills. In this year’s plan, there are cuts for personal and corporate income taxes. Republicans say it’s a way to recruit more businesses and taxpayers to the state. Democrats say that money is best spent elsewhere.
Leaders in the House and Senate say the proposed tax cuts will ultimately put more money in the pockets of state government. Opponents say cutting taxes now shows some Republicans don’t have a very long memory.
“We are open for business in the state of Oklahoma,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Stitt is joining other Republican lawmakers who last week announced a budget agreement had been reached. In it are two significant tax cuts.
The personal income tax rate would be lowered by a quarter of a point and corporate income tax rates cut by a full two percent.
“That tax relief needs to happen this year. When people and businesses have more in their pockets, they spend it; they invest, they hire more people,” said Rep. Charles McCall, Speaker of the House.
“We don’t have any evidence that lowering corporate taxes brings business here or retains them,” said Sen. Julia Kirt.
The Democrat from Oklahoma City sits on the Senate Finance Committee. She says the cuts will mean $280 million less in this years budget. She says memories of the teacher walkout and the need for more state funds are fresh in her mind.
“Three years ago we just raised taxes; it was so painful. Why have we forgotten that?” said Kirt.
Some lawmakers say an obvious area where that money could be spent is the waiting list for the developmentally disabled. Officials say there are currently 5,800 people waiting for services like home care therapy and day supervision.
“They deserve to have a life to and deserve to be taken care of, and not having the funding is a bad excuse,” said Steve Ross, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Foundation for the Disabled.
Now, the Oklahoma Legislature has given $6 million extra over the last three years to the Department of Human Services to get 600 people off that list. Republicans also point out record funding for common education, including a $171 million dollar increase this year.
They say now is the time to be proactive to increase the tax base.
“We want Oklahoma to be the state that says, ‘You know what, we are open for business. We want to lower taxes in Oklahoma. We want to be business friendly,’” said Stitt.
The budget does include some $800 million to replenish the rainy day fund that was used during the pandemic. The House passed the main budget bills this afternoon. The Senate is predicted to do the same by the end of the week.