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March 4, 2014

DENNIS CASEY: Tax cut discussions intensify at Capitol

STILLWATER, Okla. — The new trend in the discussion of tax cuts at the Oklahoma Legislature is a great divide among state lawmakers on the specific language of a tax cut bill.

Many conservative policymakers are wary of a tax cut this year, even though they believe in the positive effects of a tax cut. Tax cuts in Oklahoma have historically led to small upticks in revenue, except in 2008 during the economic downturn. However, in the budget process, we have to project current revenue levels minus the tax cut. Even if a tax cut ultimately results in revenue growth, we cannot budget as if that will be the case.

So, what we are running into this year is a lot of spending needs, a budget shortfall created by higher education and road funding that comes “off the top,” and not a great deal of maneuvering room in the budget process.

The tax cut proposals being put forward include revenue triggers, meaning they will only take place in tax year 2016 if there is revenue growth.

A Senate bill would cut Oklahoma’s top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent as soon as certified projections for the state’s general revenue fund get back up to where they were when the Legislature approved a tax cut last year that was later struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

A provision in the bill that would further cut the top income tax rate to 4.85 percent just as soon as the state’s revenue growth is enough to offset the amount that would otherwise be lost because of the tax cut. An identical provision was in the bill struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. This leads me to believe the Senate bill may be flawed if its intent is to indeed result in a tax cut.

A House bill would cut the top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent once growth in state income tax collections is determined to be sufficient to offset the financial impact of the tax cut. House Bill 2508 doesn’t contain a provision for a second tax cut like the one in the Senate bill.

With two bills available and all these concerns that are being brought forward, I want to seek your input and encourage you to talk with me about these proposals. To contact my office, call 405-557-7344 or email dennis.casey-@okhouse.gov.

State Rep. Dennis Casey is a Republican from Morrison. His district includes Creek, Noble, Osage, Pawnee and Payne counties.

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