Wednesday, February 8, 2012
SEAN MURPHY, Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — Republican leaders in the Oklahoma Senate said Tuesday they share Republican Gov. Mary Fallin's goal of reducing the state income tax, but stopped short of endorsing her plan to cut the top rate by nearly 2 percent beginning in January.
About 20 members of the 31-member Senate Republican caucus outlined their legislative priorities for the upcoming session at a press conference with reporters.
"Our agenda is pro-growth, with a renewed dedication to a government that is smaller, simpler and smarter, while still protecting services that are vital to our citizens," said Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa.
Sen. Rick Brinkley, who has been leading an analysis of the state's tax structure, said Senate Republicans plan to give careful consideration to the recommendations of a task force that suggested a more modest cut in the state income tax that was revenue-neutral.
The Task Force on Comprehensive Tax Reform suggested cutting the state's top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 4.75 percent over the next two years. Like Fallin's plan, the task force suggested offsetting the lost revenue by eliminating dozens of tax credits and exemptions. But unlike Fallin's proposal, which is expected to cost the state about $350 million a year when fully implemented, the task force's proposal would be revenue-neutral.
Brinkley says Senate Republicans will give careful consideration to a task force that recommended a more modest cut in the state income tax that was revenue-neutral.
The task force also suggested lowering the corporate income tax rate from 6 percent to 5 percent.
"The task force that we were on, we were looking more along the lines of a revenue-neutral tax cut, but the reality is that we are in day two of the session, and we've got time to work out a solution that is aggressive and responsible and be able to do what we need to do that's in the best interest of the people of Oklahoma," said Brinkley, R-Owasso.
Other priorities outlined by GOP Senate leaders are restoring funding to pay $5,000 bonuses to teachers who have earned their National Board Certification and reducing the size of government.
"For far too long, Oklahoma's government has operated with too much glut, too much inefficiency," said Sen. Clark Jolley, the new chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee. "With the budget shortfalls we've had in recent years, we've seen a lot of that low hanging fruit inefficiency get lopped off, but now it's time for us to get even deeper into making sure we're modernizing and being the most efficient with taxpayer dollars."