House Republican support for a proposed personal income tax-cutting measure continued to lose ground Monday as members learned the plan — which would result in an increased tax burden for 24 percent of state taxpayers — would have an especially adverse effect on middle-class Oklahomans with two or more children.
Details emerged Monday that married couples with four children who itemize with a federal adjusted gross income of $70,000 to $80,000 would see a tax increase of about $200, according to estimates prepared by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Married couples with two children who itemize with an income of $70,000 to $80,000 would see a tax increase of about $100.
At least 40 percent of those with a federal adjusted gross income between $8,000 and $25,999 would have an increased tax burden next year under the proposed plan. Estimates show 400,000 of the state's 1.6 million personal income tax filers would see a tax increase.
House Speaker Kris Steele, author of House Bill 3061, tried to rally support among the 67 House Republicans during closed-door caucus meetings. House Republicans seemed divided among those who support the proposal, and those who are concerned that the measure would increase personal income taxes for middle-class families, while others say the state shouldn't cut the personal income tax, which brings in about 30 percent of the money lawmakers appropriate. Others would like a deeper cut and to gradually eliminate the personal income tax.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said the 31 members in his caucus are united to vote against the proposal contained in HB 3061. Bills require 51 votes for passage in the House. That means 17 Republicans would have to vote against the measure. Republicans outnumber Democrats 67-31; three seats are vacant in the 101-member chamber.
“We think it's a horrible plan for the state of Oklahoma, and the people of Oklahoma, when they see the details, will agree with us,” Inman said. “We don't believe that plan can garner enough votes in the House to pass, and therefore the governor and the Republican leadership will have to go back to the drawing board if they want any kind of tax cut this session.”
More Senate support
Less opposition is expected in the Senate, where Republicans have a 32-16 edge. A bill needs 25 votes to pass the Senate.
HB 3061, reached through an agreement between Steele, R-
Lawmakers must complete their work by 5 p.m. Friday.
“We don't want to raise taxes on anybody,” said Rep. Don Armes, R-
Armes said he would like to see a cut in the personal income tax next year, but the state still needs revenue for core services such as education, public safety, health, transportation and human services.
Armes said HB 3061 had a 50 percent chance of winning House approval.
Rep. Glen Mulready, R-Tulsa, who supported an earlier proposal that called for cutting the top personal income tax rate by 3 percentage points next year, said he is undecided about HB 3061.
Asked if he thought the measure would pass in the House, Mulready said, “At this point, I would think probably not.”
Steele said he will continue to seek the measure's passage.
“It's important that this bill pass so Oklahoma can continue the economic momentum we're currently enjoying,” he said.
Fallin continues to encourage the Legislature to support this deal “and to deliver on the promise of a significant tax cut that conservative lawmakers have made to their constituents,” said Alex Weintz, the governor's communications director.
Is it constitutional?
Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said he continues to believe HB 3061 is a tax increase. If so, under State Question 640, the measure would need 75 percent support in both the House and the Senate to pass, or it would require a vote of the people.
“Not only is this plan fiscally irresponsible because it will inevitably lead to reductions to core services, but it is also illegal under the Oklahoma Constitution, as we also cannot pass revenue bills in the final five days of session,” Dorman said.
More than 30 House Republicans earlier this year backed a measure that would have cut the top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 2.25 percent.
The deep cuts became unrealistic when legislators refused to eliminate or reduce corporate tax credits, which were part of the formula of how the state would make up for lost revenue.
Lost revenue in HB 3061 is partially offset by eliminating 33 tax credits, certain deductions and eliminating the personal exemption for single filers making more than $35,000 and joint filers making more than $70,000.
No major economic tax credits are being eliminated; retirement and veteran tax exemptions for individual taxpayers are safe.
The plan also eliminates the ability for taxpayers who claim itemized deductions on their federal and state returns to deduct their state income tax.
The plan would cost the state $32.7 million in the 2013 fiscal year, which would be paid for with growth revenue from this fiscal year. Revenue collections through April are $350 million higher than originally expected. The plan is expected to cost the state $102 million in the 2014 fiscal year.