The authors of a “back-to-school” sales tax holiday bill say they are pleased the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved the measure Tuesday.
Senate Bill 861 is sponsored by Republican Senator Don Barrington from Lawton and Democratic Senator Jay Paul Gumm of Durant. The measure would enact a “back-to-school” sales tax holiday on the same days as the Texas holiday.
Under the measure, clothing and shoes costing less than $100 would be tax free during the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August. The proposal has died in years past due to intense lobbying by the Oklahoma Municipal League and city governments.
Barrington said he and Gumm took care of that problem, as their bill would hold counties and cities harmless. The bill requires the state to reimburse cities and counties for revenue lost as a result of the tax-free shopping weekend when compared to the same month in the year before.
Barrington also pointed to revenue figures from both Texas and Missouri as evidence that a sales tax holiday actually boosts local economies during the tax free shopping weekend.
“I am confident the financial impact will be minimal, if at all,” Barrington said. “The fact is that in both Texas and Missouri, local revenues held steady or increased because of greater retail activity during the sales tax holidays.”
Senator Gumm, a longtime advocate of the “back-to-school” sales tax holiday, said Oklahoma now loses millions of dollars every year in economic strength to Texas because Oklahomans cross the border to take advantage of that state’s tax-free weekend.
“There is such a thing as being ‘penny-wise and dollar-dumb,” Gumm told the committee. “Those who oppose this on the grounds it might harm local revenues miss the big picture – they are already being harmed by the thousands of Oklahomans who spend their money in Texas that weekend.”
“That is economic strength our state cannot afford to lose, and that we can keep at home if we pass the ‘back-to-school’ sales tax holiday.”
The pair noted that a ‘back-to-school’ sales tax holiday puts real money back into the pockets of middle class families who already contribute so much to Oklahoma’s growing economy. Often, they said, the money saved will be pumped right back into the economy in the form of additional sales.
The measure also had the support of Oklahoma retailers, who are at an enormous competitive disadvantage during the Texas sales tax holiday.
The two legislators agreed a tax cut like the back-to-school sales tax holiday is not only a winner for working and middle class families, but also for small business owners, city governments and the entire state.
“We are tired of seeing Texas benefit at the expense of Oklahoma families and retailers in our districts,” Barrington said. “This bill will allow Oklahoma families and retailers to benefit from a tax policy that encourages our citizens to spend their hard-earned money at home.”
Both legislators commented on the bipartisan collaboration to push the bill through the first step of the legislative process – noting the importance of working together to move Oklahoma forward.
“Reaching across party lines is crucial in an evenly divided Senate,” Barrington said. “Pairing up with Senator Gumm, who also represents a district that borders Texas, certainly helped push this measure through the finance committee.”
Gumm agreed. “I am grateful to Senator Barrington for his help in making sure the state does what is right without regard to partisanship.”