Friday, February 3, 2012
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK, Tulsa World Capitol Bureau
OKLAHOMA CITY - Gov. Mary Fallin said Thursday that she is proposing an income tax cut for the majority of Oklahomans.
"I believe this will be one of the boldest tax reform plans we have seen in our state's history," Fallin said. "It will give us one of the lowest income tax rates in our nation."
More details are expected to be released Monday when the governor gives her State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature.
Several measures dealing with taxes have already been filed for consideration by lawmakers when they return to the Capitol for the second session of the 53rd Legislature.
Fallin said her proposal will be funded largely by eliminating several tax credits. She is expected to release a specific list Monday.
"We are not going to eliminate all of them, but we are certainly providing a significant list of tax credits," Fallin said.
The governor said her proposal would take effect Jan. 1, 2013, and would provide "immediate relief." It would not be funded on the backs of the poor or result in starving core governmental services, she said.
Fallin also is proposing a reduction in the state's tax brackets from seven to three to simplify the tax code.
The tax brackets range from 0.5 percent up to 5.25 percent for tax year 2012, said Paula Ross, Oklahoma Tax Commission spokeswoman.
Fallin said she would like to gradually phase out the income tax. That would involve a trigger or tying a reduction to revenue growth, as has been done with past tax cuts, she said.
Cutting taxes will foster economic growth and make the state more competitive, the governor said.
Fallin and legislative leaders spoke at the Capitol to reporters and others attending a legislative forum sponsored by The Associated Press.
Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said the state House will focus on "meaningful tax reform."
"We have focused our efforts in particular on cleaning up our state's tax code," he said. "We believe that is very significant and directly connected with any sort of meaningful tax reform we would also consider in relation to reducing the personal income tax."
Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, urged caution in efforts to reduce the income tax.
He said that he doesn't hear his constituents telling him that class sizes are too small, teachers are paid too much or Department of Human Services case workers have too few cases.
"I think we need to be very, very careful as we go forward," Burrage said.
In other issues, Steele said that he supports making the Oklahoma Legislature subject to the state's open meetings and open records acts. But exceptions need to be made for constituent communications and caucus and strategy meetings, he said.
Steele said Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, is working on legislation that would create a separate law for the Legislature, making it more difficult for lawmakers to make changes later that would impact other entities subject to the acts.