Oklahoma Lawmakers Set To Discuss Controversial Tax Cut Proposal In Special Session

Governor urges immediate tax cut as lawmakers gear up for special session; differing opinions emerge.

Saturday, September 16th 2023, 12:54 pm



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Lawmakers are getting ready to head back to the capitol for a special session on tax cuts. The governor made the call Monday, but there’s some differing opinions between the House and Senate about how to proceed.

Governor Stitt continues to say the time is now for a tax cut. The House Speaker agrees that now is a good time to give Oklahomans some relief. 

“The House will be prepared to answer the call,” said House Speaker Charles McCall.

But the Senate Pro Tem is recommending lawmakers proceed with caution in the current economy.

“We will answer the call like we always do,” said Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat.

Lawmakers on both sides of the rotunda are ready to answer governor Stitt's call for a special session, but they’re not yet on the same page with their plans.

“I believe we can easily afford a cut in the personal tax rate for the people of Oklahoma,” said McCall.

“I think the governor has more confidence in the Biden economy than I do,” said Treat.

The governor's special session call includes budget transparency, a tax cut to put the state on the path to zero income taxes, and a trigger law mandating that if the court finds that any Oklahoman doesn't have to pay state taxes, then nobody has to pay state taxes.

“Typically, the legislature does not advance legislation on an issue where there's a pending court case,” said McCall.

The trigger law likely stems from a case pending in the supreme court, Strobel V. Oklahoma, where Alicia Strobel argues, she doesn’t have to pay state income taxes while living on reservation land and working for a tribe.

“If they find a Native American is living on what is now defined as a reservation in a post McGirt world doesn't have to pay income tax if they work for a tribe,” said Treat.

Stitt’s call for the trigger law would mean if the court sided with Strobel, then state income taxes would be eliminated altogether immediately.

“To eliminate what I estimate to be around $4 billion of income tax from our state budget,” said Treat.

Treat says eliminating that all together so quickly would be problematic, adding that the missing revenue would have to be taken from other parts of the budget. Treat has asked the governor for a clear path on where that money would come from.

“Which schools are we going to close? Which public safety programs are we going to cancel? Are the tax credits that we just passed for school choice, are we going to have to rescind some of those?,” said Treat.

While McCall says the House is clear about the special session demands, Treat says the Senate needs more answers from the governor before they make any moves.

“I think all 4 million Oklahomans deserve to hear what his plan is,” said Treat.

Pro Tem Treat has invited the governor to the Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on October 3 at 10 a.m., requesting the governor provide some more information on his special session requests at that time.

Treat called the governor's guidelines “intensely vague” and said that he needs more information.

These were the exact guidelines given to the legislature for Stitt’s special session call:

  1. 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.
  2. A tax cut that puts Oklahoma on the path to zero income taxes. This will keep us in line with surrounding Republican-led states.
  3. 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.

In a statement, Choctaw Chief Gary Batton said: 

“We commend Senate Pro Temp Greg Treat’s fight for transparency and efficiency in state government. Priorities and goals should be stated clearly before jumping into another special session,” Batton said. “We look forward to a resolution that benefits all Oklahomans and unifies rather than divides our great state.” 

Democratic leaders also responded to Governor Stitt’s call for a special session in a joint statement:

“It’s concerning that the governor continues circumventing the standard legislative process even as he calls for transparency. The Constitution directs us to govern in a way that allows for public input and thorough examination through the committee process. Special sessions should only be used for urgent issues, not regular policy proposals rooted in political ideology. Oklahomans deserve to have their voices heard.” – Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd (D-OKC)
“The governor’s call for a special session is political grandstanding rooted in his desire to place the national spotlight on himself, not serve the people he claims to protect. Forcing a special session around issues vaguely defined by the governor is not transparent or collaborative, nor is it responsive to the needs of everyday Oklahomans. A special session is not the appropriate avenue to address the loss of billions of dollars in revenue with potential threats to public safety, schools and roads that would result from the elimination of state income taxes.” – House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson D-OKC
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