Boren urges temperance on income tax roll back

Friday, January 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ University of Oklahoma President David Boren is urging state lawmakers to be cautious when considering rolling back an automatic increase in the state income tax.

``During a financial emergency, it's not wise to make hasty decisions which could either unbalance the budget or force deeper cuts in key areas like education and health care than any of us would want to see,'' Boren said.

The state income tax rate increased from 6.75 percent to 7 percent on Tuesday. The increase was triggered after state officials reported a revenue shortfall, threatening the budgets of state agencies and programs.

The automatic increase was a fail-safe mechanism placed in a 1998 bill that reduced the tax rate. It was intended to protect state government in a fiscal crisis. But Republicans are calling on Democrats to join them in repealing the tax hike.

Boren, who was a state legislator, governor and U.S. senator before becoming OU's president, called on lawmakers to be prudent and responsible and avoid putting the state in an even worse fiscal swamp.

``This time of uncertainty calls for careful thought and not hasty action,'' he said.

Gary Jones, executive director of the 10,000-member Oklahoma Public Employees Association, warned that the proposed rollback could result in slashing vital services.

Jones said Oklahomans should ask themselves whether ``a very small savings in the tax rate is worth slashing essential government services we all depend upon.''

Boren said that unlike the federal government, state government is similar to a family that must live within a balanced budget.

``When the family is already spending more than it takes in and is already cutting back on its spending, great care should be taken before reducing income even more,'' he said.

Jones said Oklahomans might think that cuts in children's programs, road building and law enforcement are too high a price to pay for what he said would be an average $7.50-a-month tax savings.