Legislator wants special session to repeal income tax

Wednesday, November 21st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The state Legislature should reconvene a special session and repeal the income tax as a way to keep the newly merged ConocoPhillips from moving its headquarters from Bartlesville, a lawmaker said Tuesday.

Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, said the Oklahoma income tax played a role in Fleming Cos. moving its corporate headquarters to Texas a few years ago.

``Now, Phillips is moving their headquarters and their highest-paying jobs to Texas, as well. I have no doubt that our income tax played a significant role in ensuring that Phillips executives will soon be moving to Texas,'' Coffee said.

Phillips announced Sunday it would merge with Conoco and moves its headquarters to Houston, where Conoco is based. Some jobs will be eliminated in Bartlesville and at the Conoco refinery in Ponca City, officials with both companies have said.

Coffee recommended the session be held during the first week of December.

Kristi DesJarlais, a Phillips spokeswoman, had no comment on whether an income tax repeal would have any effect on plans to locate ConocoPhillips' headquarters in Bartlesville. The location of the headquarters was part of the negotiations on the merger package, DesJarlais said.

The special session originally was convened to overhaul the Oklahoma tax system by eliminating the income tax and sales tax on groceries and reducing the estate tax. Lawmakers dealt with a disabled workers trust fund and other issues instead.

Coffee said he disagrees with some who think tax reform is too complicated to handle during a special session.

Senate leader Stratton Taylor first proposed a special session for tax reform and said he's still interested in pursuing anything that could prevent the latest job losses or lessen the their economic impact.

``Obviously, we're all concerned about the way the state tax structure affects Oklahoma's economic development efforts, especially in regard to retaining good jobs like those provided by Phillips Petroleum, Conoco and other employers,'' said Taylor, D-Claremore. ``That's why I've been working for the past eight months to eliminate the state income tax and the sales tax on groceries. I remain committed to that goal.''

But Taylor said the Legislature would need a tax reform proposal on paper and a consensus on it before it could reconvene to consider it in special session.

John Cox, press secretary for Gov. Frank Keating, said the governor wants to address the tax situation before the end of the year, but there's no arrangement to do that yet.