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Support for proposed personal income tax cut in Oklahoma slips among House Republicans

Backing for a proposal to cut Oklahoma's personal income tax is eroding among House Republicans as details emerge it could have an adverse effect on middle-class Oklahomans with two or more children and who itemize.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: May 22, 2012

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.

Divided House

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-Shawnee, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and Gov. Mary Fallin, could come up for a vote on the House floor Tuesday or Wednesday. It passed a House budget committee late last week and a Senate budget committee Monday.

Lawmakers must complete their work by 5 p.m. Friday.

“We don't want to raise taxes on anybody,” said Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon. “There are a lot of people in that room who would like to cut the income tax completely out, there's some who would like to cut no income tax, and there's every variation in between. There's a vast array of opinions and that's what's bogging us down. I'd hate to be the speaker, the pro tem or the governor and have to figure out how to herd these cats.”

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