Oklahoma lawmakers to mull tax cuts during special session
By SEAN MURPHY and KEN MILLER
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Legislature will return to the Capitol for a special session to consider tax cuts the governor wants and how to allocate federal COVID-19 relief funds that were part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
After the session opens Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt wants lawmakers to consider eliminating the state sales tax on groceries and reducing the top individual income tax rate from 4.75% to 4.5%.
“Oklahoma is one of just 13 states that taxes groceries, and it most affects the people who can least afford it. Our strong fiscal discipline over the years has given us the ability to eliminate this tax and now is the right time to do it,” Stitt said when he announced last month that he planned to ask lawmakers to return.
It’s not clear whether the GOP-controlled House and Senate would have the votes to approve both of those items. Democrats support eliminating the grocery tax, but they oppose reducing the individual income tax.
Some Republicans also have urged caution about cutting taxes, since it takes a three-fourth’s vote from the Legislature to increase taxes. But House Speaker Charles McCall said in a statement that unspecified bills intended to offset inflation will be introduced.
"House Republicans support all plans and paths to get Oklahomans the most inflation relief possible,” McCall said.
Details of the bills were not released, but McCall said they will be introduced Monday and address the personal income tax, grocery tax and business taxes.
“We expect some combination of these bills, but not all of them, to reach the finish line and become law," McCall said.
The Legislature, meanwhile, has called a special session of its own to determine how best to distribute the $1.8 billion allocated to Oklahoma by the federal government. According to a joint House and Senate press release, among the proposals they’re expected to consider on Monday are:
— $15 million to complete a School of Optometry at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.
— $8.8 million for projects addressing the nursing workforce shortage.
— $250,000 for the Health Workforce Training Commission to administer nursing workforce programs.
— $25 million for a grant pool for eligible nonprofit recovery programs.
— $39.4 million to complete the Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Behavioral Health Center.
— $500,000 to provide preliminary support to open a State Broadband Office, which legislative leaders say will be reimbursed through other federal funds once they’ve been accessed.
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