House panel approves $171 million income tax cut - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

House panel approves $171 million income tax cut

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A Senate-passed income tax cut that would reduce state revenue by about $190 million a year was approved by the House Revenue and Taxation Committee Wednesday.

The measure, which now goes to the House floor, was embraced by House Speaker Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, who has proposed a separate $130 million tax cut. Hiett's measure was approved by the House and is pending in the Senate.

Hiett, who is running for lieutenant governor this fall, presented the bill in a rare apperance before the committee after taking over the role of House author. The measure's Senate author is Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow, also a candidate for lieutenant governor.

The Senate bill would reduce Oklahoma's top income tax rate from 6.25 percent to 4.9 percent. Hiett's bill would reduce the state income tax rate to 5.85 percent.

Hiett said he believes the state can absorb the loss of additional revenue and still raise teacher salaries, fully fund a college scholarship program, pay for road and bridge improvements and meet other obligations.

``We can balance the state budget,'' Hiett said. ``We've done the math. And it will work.''

Committee members passed the measure without opposition.

Hiett said reducing the income tax rate is a priority of the House's Republican leadership. Last year, Hiett supported legislation that cut the state's top marginal rate from 6.65%, a $108 million cut in its first full year of implementation. The rate was reduced from 7% in 2004 by a statewide vote of the people.

Hiett said he hopes to eventually reduce the income tax rate to between 3 percent and 4 percent. He said increased tax revenue from economic growth will compensate for the loss in income tax revenue.

Lowering the income tax rate will encourage new investment in the state, increasing job opportunities and reducing the state's dependence on the oil and gas industry, Hiett said.

``This is our opportunity to diversify the economy so that we are not solely dependent on one industry,'' he said.
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