Flush with cash, Oklahoma Governor expected to push tax cuts

The Associated Press - February 6, 2023 8:50 am

By SEAN MURPHY Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — With state savings accounts and revenue collections at all-time highs, tax cuts are expected to be a top priority for Gov. Kevin Stitt and the Republican-controlled Legislature when it begins the 2023 session on Monday.

Stitt, who won reelection in November, will present his executive budget proposal to lawmakers and deliver his fifth State of the State address at noon to a joint legislative session.

The Governor last year urged the House and Senate to send him bills to eliminate the state sales tax on groceries and reduce the individual and corporate income tax rates, but none of those proposals made it into law. All of those are expected to be part of the budget negotiations again this year.

After the Federal Reserve enacted another interest rate hike, last week Stitt tweeted that “we need to cut taxes and that starts with eliminating our state’s grocery tax.”

Oklahoma currently has about $1.4 billion in its constitutional Rainy Day Fund and a separate revenue stabilization fund, and the amount of money available for lawmakers to spend on this year’s budget is expected to increase by another $950 million, based on December figures approved by the state Board of Equalization.

Lawmakers also are likely to pass a pay raise for teachers, although the details will be hammered out during the session. State Sen. Adam Pugh, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, unveiled a plan last month to give an across-the-board teacher pay raise of between $3,000 and $6,000, based on years of service. However, the Governor’s Secretary of Education and new State Superintendent Ryan Walters has put forth a plan to give merit-based pay raises to teachers.

The Legislature also is likely to consider again a plan endorsed by Stitt and Walters for a voucher-style plan to divert public education funds from public schools to private schools, although the proposal remains unpopular with many House Republicans, particularly those in rural areas.

A number of bills also have been introduced by Republicans this year to restore some of the abortion restrictions that were imposed last year, including a bill that would allow abortions in cases of rape or incest that have been reported to law enforcement and clarifying the definition of when an abortion is allowed in cases of medical emergencies that threaten the life of the mother.

“That bill is supported and endorsed by Oklahomans for Life, so I would anticipate (it) has a chance of passing,” said Rep. Jon Echols, majority floor leader in the House. “I definitely think it will get considered.”

Several bills also have been introduced to prohibit gender-affirming medical care for young people. Those proposals come after the governor signed bills last year to prevent transgender girls from playing on girls sports teams and requiring students in public schools to only use bathrooms that correspond with the gender assigned to them at birth.

 

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