Oklahoma House: New committee won't take up secession, chairman says

The chairman of the newly formed States' Rights Committee said the panel will look at protecting Oklahoma's sovereign rights.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: January 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm •  Published: January 19, 2013
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“This committee could in its first year be a backup committee,” Moore said. “It could take over bills because it basically deals with everything. It could take over bills that are having a hard time ... or are not being heard by a committee. They can bring it over here to be heard.”

Shelton said he is optimistic the panel will focus on issues that could help the state.

“I was shocked on the members that I saw on the committee,” said Shelton, of Oklahoma City. “I expected a certain group of members and I feel like he got a very collective group of members on that committee that will offer a lot of conversation and it should be fun.”

Tax proposals

Moore said he hopes the committee will hear a measure he filed. House Bill 1252 would drastically change how Oklahomans pay their state and federal taxes. It calls for taxpayers to pay a flat tax to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. It would deposit the money in the state treasury and the federal government's share would be paid monthly or quarterly. The state could use the interest money earned on the funds to pay for a variety of state services.

Setting up the new tax method would require cooperation from the federal government and eliminating all income tax deductions and credits. Proposals last year to reduce or eliminate the state personal income tax stalled partly because of opposition to their being dependent on getting rid of certain deductions and credits.

“Everything's fair,” Moore said. “Everything's completely even, and it's giving a fresh start, hitting the reset button on how we tax in Oklahoma.”

The committee also might look at the amount of federal money coming to state agencies and how agencies are spending it, he said. In addition to the $6.8 billion lawmakers appropriated for this fiscal year, state agencies received about $7.5 billion from the federal government.

“We don't really have a good way to account for that money,” Moore said. “We don't have a way to see if it is being used in the best possible manner.”

One possibility is that all the federal money should go instead to the state treasury, and then lawmakers would appropriate it, he said.

“The state Legislature which is the representative of the people has a chance to see and figure out where that money's going to go, what strings are attached to that money, what mandates are attached to that money,” Moore said. “It's like right now we have a shadow government in and amongst us working with our state agencies that we don't really ever get to see.”