Capitol in brief
Elimination of national health care taxes sought
The House passed a resolution Wednesday asking the president, vice president and Congress to eliminate or change taxes imposed from the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Senate Joint Resolution 8 asks federal officials to look at ways to eliminate taxes as the legislation dubbed Obamacare by opponents is fully implemented over the next few years. SJR 8, which passed the Senate 37-9 last month, passed the House 70-11. It states that congressional reports show a large portion of the funding of the Affordable Care Act will come in the form of increased premium taxes. “Obamacare is nothing but a tax-increase wolf in health care-reform sheep's clothing,” said Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso. “There will be all sorts of unintended consequences, such as premium increases, younger, healthier citizens ... abandoning coverage, and spiraling costs will result in fewer options for consumers down the road.”
Committee approves housing tax credit
The House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would create an Oklahoma income tax credit for low-income and senior citizen housing projects. Senate Bill 804 states the credit would be similar to the federal low-income housing tax credit and it would be capped to the amount of annual federal low-income housing tax credits available to Oklahoma for the same allocation year. Speaker Pro Tem Mike Jackson, R-Enid, House sponsor of SB 804, said it would cost the state about $9.2 million in tax revenue when fully implemented. Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, argued against the measure, saying the state can't afford another tax credit that will take money away from core services. The committee voted 20-6 to pass SB 804, which now goes to the House Calendar Committee to determine if it gets a hearing in the House.
in Panhandle applauded
Panhandle producers were complimented Wednesday for working to cut water use in half from the Ogallala Aquifer by using new irrigation technology and adopting other water stewardship practices. Rep. Gus Blackwell, R-Laverne, said during a Capitol news conference that data from the U.S. Geological Survey show overall water use from the Ogallala declined by about 60 percent during a 10-year period, from more than 600 million gallons a year in 1995 to less than 220 million gallons in 2005. At the same time, he said, the total number of irrigated crop acres in the Panhandle increased from 230,918 acres to 232,058 acres. Three of the top four counties producing agricultural products are in the Panhandle, Blackwell said, with Texas County ranking among the top agricultural producing counties in the U.S. Clay Pope, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, said evaluating water use and developing water management practices will help extend the life of the Ogallala Aquifer.
MICHAEL MCNUTT, CAPITOL BUREAU