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The leader of the State Senate is applauding Governor Frank Keating for agreeing to support the Texas Plan - an initiative that would allow voters to decide whether Oklahoma should scrap its current tax code and replace it with an exact duplicate of the Texas tax system that levies no taxes on income or grocery purchases.
"I'm glad that Governor Keating has endorsed the Texas Plan. He has made it clear that he will support putting the Texas Plan to a vote of the people. I'm pleased that he wants to let Oklahomans have their say on this issue," said Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor.
The Senate leader unveiled the Texas Plan at a State Capitol news conference Monday. Although Governor Keating first expressed skepticism about the program, he dispelled any doubts in an interview on KRMG Radio in Tulsa Tuesday morning. During that interview, Governor Keating endorsed the Texas Plan, saying he would support putting the question to a statewide vote.
"I think Governor Keating's support will be a big boost to the Texas Plan. Having him behind the program makes it much more likely that Oklahomans will get an opportunity to vote on an initiative that would eliminate the state income tax and the sales tax on groceries. This is the kind of bipartisanship that Oklahoma needs," said Sen. Taylor, a Claremore Democrat.
Under the Texas Plan, Oklahoma voters would decide whether the state should replace its current tax code with that of the state of Texas. Texas has no personal or corporate income tax and no sales tax on grocery purchases. Sen. Taylor believes that such a tax system would enhance economic development in Oklahoma, just as it has in Texas.
"This could be the most significant economic development reform in Oklahoma history. It will give us the same tax system that has helped Texas grow into an economic powerhouse," said Sen. Taylor.
Taylor also took the opportunity to reinforce one aspect of the Texas Plan - that it is a serious initiative, not a "study."
Because he has asked the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to help compile the tax data needed for a statewide vote, some officials have mistakenly assumed that the Texas Plan is just a "study" that may or may not be acted upon. Taylor, however, pointed out that OU and OSU's role is to draft ballot questions and statutory changes to implement the Texas tax code in Oklahoma, not to conduct an academic study of the pros and cons of the Texas system.
"I'm not asking OU and OSU to engage in an academic study of Texas taxes. Their job is to draw up the language that will allow voters to pass the entire Texas tax code into law in Oklahoma. They are going to help us make sure that we don't inadvertently leave out a section of the Texas system," said Senator Taylor.
"I don't want another study. I want language that will allow us to put the entire Texas tax code in front of the voters, and the sooner the better."