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Stitt seeks tax cuts in special Oklahoma legislative session starting Tuesday

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Stitt seeks tax cuts in special Oklahoma legislative session starting Tuesday

Oct 02, 2023 | 6:00 pm ET
By Carmen Forman
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Stitt seeks tax cuts in special Oklahoma legislative session starting Tuesday
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The Oklahoma Legislature will convene starting Tuesday for a special legislative session on tax cuts and budget transparency. (Photo by Kyle Phillips/For Oklahoma Voice)

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Legislature will begin on Tuesday a special legislative session on tax cuts and budget transparency as Gov. Kevin Stitt ramps up pressure on lawmakers to decrease state income taxes.

The looming question is what, if anything, will lawmakers accomplish as House and Senate Republicans appear to differ on whether the time is right for tax cuts.

Stitt wants lawmakers to move toward eliminating income taxes while also implementing a “trigger law” that would exempt all Oklahomans from income taxes if the state Supreme Court finds Native Americans who live and work on their tribe’s reservation are exempt.

But the Republican governor will face his greatest obstacle in the state Senate, where GOP leadership has expressed opposition to the special session and urged caution on tax cuts.

Stitt seeks tax cuts in special Oklahoma legislative session starting Tuesday
Treat

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat asked Stitt to appear before the chamber’s appropriations committee on Tuesday to answer questions about his tax cut proposals. The governor is still considering the invitation but is unlikely to attend, said Stitt spokesperson Abegail Cave.

Treat, R-Oklahoma City, insists senators need details from the governor on how he proposes to eliminate the state’s income tax and offset the cost of those cuts before his chamber can move forward.

“We’re not opposed to tax cuts or tax reform,” Treat told reporters last week. “What we would be opposed to is doing it without a plan, without a long-term strategy on sustainability to make sure we pay for critical services like public safety, health, education.”

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, has filed five special session bills with no specific language that could be used for tax cut proposals. Several other members of the House on both sides of the aisle introduced their own tax reform proposals.

No senators had filed any special session bills as of mid-afternoon on Monday.

Stitt seeks tax cuts in special Oklahoma legislative session starting Tuesday
McCall

The tax cuts Stitt is proposing have been a priority for the House for several years, McCall said recently.

In a special session on tax cuts last summer, the House passed a slate of bills to reduce or eliminate various taxes, but the Senate did not act on the proposals.

“The House believes that we should give the people of the state of Oklahoma relief by lowering the personal income tax,” McCall said.

He said special sessions are typically only fruitful if the House and the Senate can come to an agreement on a package of legislation.

It’s unclear how long the special session will last.

Stitt is also calling on lawmakers to take action in the special session to increase the transparency of the state budget process. Some have criticized top lawmakers for crafting the state budget largely behind closed doors and then quickly forcing the Legislature to vote on hundreds of pages of budget bills in the final days of the annual legislative session.

The governor’s call for a “trigger law” related to taxation is due to a case before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in which a Muscogee Nation citizen is asking to be exempted from state income taxes because she lives and works on her tribe’s reservation. Stitt has said the case is an example of the downside of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark McGirt decision that found some tribal reservations were never disestablished.