The tax study is in and the questions begin. Will Oklahoma overhaul it's tax system, and what will that mean for your household? KOTV's Sean Mossman has looked over the study and says any plan to reform the state's tax code will have widespread effects.
Like any major legislation, some taxpayers will be helped, while others will get hurt. Area farmer, Melvin Keller says he's ready. Ready to sell off the family farm he's known since his birth. He's, like most farmers and ranchers these days, unable to turn a profit in this modern economy. "I think a lot of people are just hanging on now. Just trying to make ends meet. Some of them aren't doing it and some are. It's getting so close that some of them aren't risking the money anymore." Making ends meet may get tougher, if a plan to reform the state's tax code becomes law. The plan would rely on a mix of tax increases to help support elimination of state income tax. Among those increases would likely be a hike in property taxes, and that doesn't sit too well with the state's farmers. Most own hundreds of acres and would see much higher property tax bills. That's a trade-off that most voters may be willing to make.
State senator and Senate president pro temp Stratton Taylor of Claremore, "that opportunity to have a 6 3/4% increase in your paycheck each pay period and not have to pay state sales tax on groceries has a big impact on a family of four in Oklahoma." Taylor joined Governor Keating in commissioning the joint OU-OSU study. He says the study looked at four states as models for a tax code, Texas, Florida, Nevada and Washington. The most likely scenario that would be sent to a statewide vote is as follows. Abolish state income tax and grocery sales tax, and restructure estate taxes to make them more reasonable. To make up for the lost revenue, the state would raise property taxes. It would increase the sales tax base to include services like legal fees. It would develop a gross receipts tax on sales for state businesses. And, finally, it would likely increase the state fuel taxes to twenty cents per gallon. Taylor says, "The citizens will probably want to see a mix submitted to them. I think it's key to remember, the voters of Oklahoma will ultimately get to decide this issue."
Taylor says the plan is meant to relieve the tax burden on working families. It relies heavily on the business community and industry to pick up the slack. The plan will have to be revenue neutral, he says, meaning any changes would have to result in the same amount of total taxes being collected.