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Oklahoma House debates and approves income tax cut, while Senate remains on standby

House Speaker Charles McCall shakes hands with Gov. Kevin Stitt at the 2023 State of the State address.
Abi Ruth Martin
House Speaker Charles McCall shakes hands with Gov. Kevin Stitt at the 2023 State of the State address.

House Bill 1002 passed on a 71 to 20 party-line vote on Wednesday, representing a quarter of a percent income tax cut. But, the bill is unlikely to go anywhere — for the moment — as Senate leaders look to use their support for the measure as leverage on other legislative priorities.

Rep. Kevin Wallace presented the bill and fielded questions from Democrats. Wallace said a state income tax cut means more money in Oklahomans' pockets. He said the state can afford it with more than $4 billion in savings.

Democrats, who opposed the measure, argue the revenue lost could pay for infrastructure improvements or health care costs. Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Oklahoma City, provided Wallace with some examples.

"I look at the billions of dollars we have in deferred maintenance, I look at the 1,600 miles that we have of roads — two lanes highways in Oklahoma that are killing Oklahomans," Fugate said. "I look at the fact that we don't have hospitals in so many places in this state. We have childcare deserts, medical deserts, behavioral healthcare deserts, and ask how should we spend the people’s money?"

Wallace responded by trying to remind Fugate why the House was gathered.

“There’s multiple things I could address in your debate and statement,” Wallace said. “But, the reason we’re here is for a special call and if you look at the call it’s very specific.”

He proceeded to read directly from Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order:

“I believe the state should seize the opportunity to allow taxpayers to keep more of their hard-earned money – because Oklahomans know how to spend their money better than the government.”

Among other concerns Democrats expressed are an income tax cut disproportionately benefitting wealthy Oklahomans and the possibility of budget shortfalls in years to come. A better way to provide immediate relief for Oklahomans is by cutting the state’s 4.5% sales tax on groceries, Democrats say.

The Senate can pick the bill up any time during the regular session as the special session runs concurrently and cast its votes.

Stitt has thrown his support behind the bill and would likely sign it if it reaches his desk.

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Lionel Ramos