In three years, you'll get $88: Oklahoma House passes income tax measure

The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted Wednesday to pass the measure, which now goes to the governor for her approval.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: May 1, 2013 at 10:15 pm •  Published: May 1, 2013
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More than a year after Gov. Mary Fallin asked Oklahoma lawmakers to cut the state's top personal income tax rate, the Republican-controlled Legislature delivered.

Taxpayers, however, won't see the effect of the tax cut until about three years from now.

The House of Representatives passed a measure Wednesday that would reduce the top personal income tax rate as well as provide money to repair the state Capitol. The House voted 65-35 mostly along party lines to pass House Bill 2032. No Democrat voted for it and seven Republicans voted against it.

House members questioned and debated the measure for more than two hours. It came down mostly to Democrats saying the state can't afford a loss in revenue because of needs in public schools, mental heath, public safety, health care and other core issues while Republicans countered that a tax cut would stimulate the economy, mostly by businesses relocating or adding jobs to the state.

Cut is questioned

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said the income tax cut bill was fiscally irresponsible because of the needs of common education and higher education, a waiting list for services for people with developmental disabilities and overcrowded and understaffed prisons.

He also said it was too hard to predict whether the state could afford a tax cut 18 months in advance.

Rep. Scott Martin, who presented the bill on the House floor, said that in the past 15 years the top personal income tax rate has been reduced from 7 percent to 5.25 percent, or a reduction of about 25 percent. During that same time period Oklahoma has seen a 47 percent increase in personal income tax revenues, from $1.9 billion to $2.8 billion.

“There's nothing on the horizon right now to suggest our economy is getting ready to tank,” he said.

The bill was delayed going to the governor, who has said she would sign it. Martin, R-Norman, used a parliamentary procedure to hold the bill so he could bring it up for another vote on the emergency clause. Without the clause, money for Capitol repairs won't be available until Nov. 1; passage of the clause would make the funds available July 1, the start of the 2014 fiscal year.

The emergency clause requires two-thirds support, or 68 votes, to pass. It failed, 64-33.

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