Some state lawmakers are hoping to bring new life to rural Oklahoma. The legislature is considering a bill that would exempt new Oklahoma residents from paying any state income tax if they move to a rural area. News On 6 anchor Craig Day reports the bill is called, "Come Home to Oklahoma."
Tom Briggs is the mayor of Pawnee. He loves the town and says it has a lot to offer.
"It's just a simpler way of life, a slower way of life, yet where Pawnee is located we have technological centers in Tulsa and Stillwater, and you have all those assets here, but it's a slower lifestyle," said Pawnee Mayor Tom Briggs.
Pawnee has a population of 2,200. But, in the past decade the town has lost population. A measure being considered in the legislature would help draw more people to small towns and rural counties.
"It really would encourage what we need more than anything in rural Oklahoma, which is people," said State Representative Jeff Hickman, (R) Fairview.
The "Come Home to Oklahoma" bill would apply to people who relocated from out of state to 48 counties or 43 towns in remaining counties that have lost population. Newcomers would get a five year state income tax exemption.
"It encourages out of state residents to move into those areas. People who aren't currently paying taxes in Oklahoma now, to get them to move to Oklahoma, to expand our tax base," said Representative Hickman.
The exemption would apply to new residents who buy a home or build one. Supporters say it would spur economic growth. Supporters of the measure also say that increased property and sales taxes in smaller towns and rural counties will more than offset what the state loses in lost income taxes.
"I think it's a very insightful bill to get people to move to the smaller communities," said Mayor Briggs.
Mayor Briggs says the measure would provide opportunities, and would benefit his town and others and the state as a whole.
The measure already passed the state house and now moves on to the Senate.
A map outlines which parts of Oklahoma would fall under the "Come Home to Oklahoma" plan.
Find more stories on NewsOn6.com's Local News page.