As the Senate Finance Committee completed its work on Senate bills assigned to it, the panel’s chair said the panel’s work is responsible and shows a deep respect for Oklahoma working families.
Senator Jay Paul Gumm said the committee considered and approved upwards of $300 million in tax cuts, almost all of which are targeted to working families or to grow Oklahoma’s economy.
The lawmaker said not every tax cut bill assigned to the Finance Committee was heard, nor should it have been. A review of the measures left on the table in the committee shows that if all of them had been approved, as much as $ 1.5 billion – more than a quarter of the entire state budget – would have been slashed from the state’s treasury.
“Oklahomans know full well what those kinds of cuts would mean to the programs important to this state,” said Gumm, D-Durant. “Two years ago, we endured a $677 million shortfall which caused severe hardships on people who need help the most. The bills not heard would have cut more than twice that from the budget.
“We have a responsibility to protect important programs like senior nutrition, public schools, scholarships for high school students, and rural fire protection,” the senator said. “The Finance Committee worked responsibly to pass legislation that will create opportunities to make a better future for our children, not take away those opportunities.”
Gumm said he took a nonpartisan approach to scheduling bills, killing more than two dozen bills written by Democratic senators.
“The Finance Committee’s job is to strike the balance between keeping taxes as low as possible and providing the critical services Oklahomans depend on to make tomorrow better for our children,” he said.
“With the committee’s work half complete, I am very pleased with what we have accomplished.”
The Senate Finance Committee is the first stop in the legislative process for measures relating to tax. During the past three weeks, the committee considered dozens of bills, including components of Governor Henry’s tax package and the Senate Democrats’ HOPE tax program.
The HOPE plan, which stands for Helping Oklahomans Prosper Economically, is contained in Senate Bill 958. The measure combines income and sales tax breaks on individuals and businesses while extending a job creation plan to assist existing state industries as well as attract new jobs to Oklahoma.
The plan includes:
A reduction of income taxes for working families by boosting the standard deduction for the first time in two decades;
A sales tax holiday on back-to-school shopping during the same weekend and on the same items as the Texas back-to-school sales tax holiday;
The elimination of taxes on capital gains on Oklahoma-based property for corporations, including small businesses;
A reduction of income taxes for senior Oklahomans by upping the amount of retirement income that is exempt from state income taxes; and
An increase of Quality Jobs incentives for qualifying companies that use in-state suppliers.
“The bills approved by the Finance Committee, including the HOPE program, create a good blueprint as we work toward developing a responsible budget and revenue package,” Gumm said.
“Our program will put money back into the pockets of working families and small businesses while protecting our investments in public schools, health care, job creation and programs that help our most vulnerable citizens.”
The lawmaker concluded by saying the guiding principle for him is to create opportunity for working Oklahomans while making tomorrow better for our children.