Income tax, workers' comp deals may be near, Oklahoma legislative leaders say

Agreements might be reached next week to move separate bills forward, leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature say.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: April 19, 2013
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Deals to resolve differences on overhauling the Oklahoma workers' compensation system and reducing the state's top personal income tax rate are expected to be hammered out by next week, leaders in the Republican-controlled Legislature said Thursday.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said he anticipates a tough fight over the workers' compensation bill, Senate Bill 1062, when it comes up next week on the floor of the House of Representatives. The deadline for the House to act on most Senate measures and for the Senate to act on most House measures is April 25.

“We are currently discussing parameters for how long that debate will take,” Inman said. “I've visited with (House) Republican leaders who are in charge of that bill … and they say there may be 10, 15, 20, 25 amendments potentially that could be lodged.”

House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, provided no details on the workers' compensation or personal income tax proposals, saying discussions are ongoing between them and the governor's office.

“We're close,” Bingman said.

Talks also involve Shannon's bill that would allow the state to sell unneeded property and underused buildings. Proceeds would pay for maintenance of other state buildings, including repairs to the Capitol. The governor is asking lawmakers to appropriate $8 million to repair the flaking exterior of the nearly 100-year-old building and $2 million for a study on how to proceed with other repairs.

Tax cuts

Both said talks are leaning toward postponing the personal income tax cut effective date from Jan. 1 until Jan. 1, 2015; Shannon said he's on board if the cut is deeper than the 4.95 percent cut called for in the latest Senate version, contained in House Bill 2023.

Inman said it's fiscally irresponsible to approve a tax cut that won't take effect until 2015 when it's unknown what the status of the state's economy will be.

Fallin and Shannon proposed a reduction of the top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, effective Jan. 1. Senate Republicans rewrote the proposal, contained in House Bill 2032; it now calls for reducing the top personal income tax rate to 4.95 percent, taking effect in 2015. It also ends the practice of five popular economic tax credits being sold to others who need to reduce their income tax liability to the state.

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