The Pryor Times

Opinion

April 5, 2012

Legislative halftime

Oklahoma's House

“We tried to pinpoint what we do best. We said at halftime we wanted to win the second half.”

~Al Lavan

 

The eighth week of session, the halfway point, was a combination of committee and chamber meetings to hear Senate bills. Events around the Capitol this week included Main Street Day hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, the Mayors Council of Oklahoma legislative forum, the annual Oklahoma Education Association Day, Children’s Mental Health Day, the Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary and the World Water Day led by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Efforts to reduce state revenue by eliminating or reducing the state income tax continue. The House Appropriations and Budget Committee gave its approval last week to the first Senate tax cut proposal considered by the members. The committee voted 13-5 for SB 1437, by Sen. Mazzei and Rep. Dank, which proposes lowering the top individual income tax rate to 4.75 percent from tax year 2012 to 2015, with a trigger to lower it in subsequent years.

By the same vote, members also approved SB 1623, also by Mazzei and Dank, to reduce the top individual income tax rate to 4.75 percemt over a two-year period, and to eliminate many tax credits, including: earned income tax credits; the personal exemption; sales tax exemption relief for low income households; child care tax credits; exemptions for blind individuals or those 65 years or older; and deductions for individuals with a physical disability as well as for contributions under the Oklahoma College Savings Plan Act.

Competing with these proposals is SB 1571, which also passed a House subcommittee. SB 1571, by Sen. Jolley and Rep. Osborn, seeks to eventually eliminate Oklahoma’s individual income tax after 10 years by reducing the rate over time. It also strips all credits, deductions, exemptions or exclusions except for retirement and social security benefits.

Unfortunately, little attention has been paid to exactly how the loss of state revenue will made up or which state programs or services will be cut if these tax proposals are enacted into law. I will be closely following these bills as we move forward in the last half of the legislative session to.

In other news, last week a Senate panel approved a bill that would allow firearms to be carried openly without a concealed-carry permit. The Senate Committee on Public Safety voted 7-2 on HB 2522, which seeks to allow people who are at least 21 and undergo training to carry weapons openly.

On the House side, a measure was adopted that would officially give the state a motto — “Oklahoma — In God We Trust!” House Concurrent Resolution 1024 says it has long been believed that “Labor Omnia Vincit,” or “Labor Conquers All Things,” is the state motto. However, the framers of the state constitution did not establish an official state motto.

Please let me know f you have any questions or comments as we move into the second half. You may reach me by calling 1-800-522-8502; emailing chuck.hoskin@okhouse.gov; or writing Rep. Chuck Hoskin, State Capitol Building, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 509, Oklahoma City, OK  73105.

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