Calling it a "realistic and responsible" way to deliver tax relief to working Oklahomans, Senator Lewis Long filed legislation today which would eliminate the state sales tax on groceries and reduce personal income taxes, replacing the lost revenue by tightening up the state's current exemptions on sales taxes.
"A lot of people have talked about getting rid of the sales tax on groceries and cutting the income tax, but no one has offered anything that is really doable from a budget perspective. My proposal is a realistic and responsible way to give working families the tax breaks they deserve without taking vital revenue away from services they rely on like education, roads and public safety," said Senator Long.
Under the legislation authored by the Glenpool lawmaker, the state's sales tax on groceries would be phased out and the top rate of the Method One bracket of the personal income tax would be reduced. The resulting revenue loss would be replaced by eliminating some of the many state sales tax exemptions on services. The main provisions of SB 14 include:
If all state sales tax exemptions were removed, the state could pull in an additional $1 billion in revenue, Long estimated. Currently exempted from the state sales tax are such things as attorney and accountant fees.
"By cutting taxes for working families and spreading the remaining tax burden over a larger number of people, we would create a far more equitable tax structure than we have today. The current system hits working folks a lot harder than it does the wealthy, and that's not fair," noted Long.
The decision on which sales tax exemptions to eliminate would be made by a bipartisan board appointed by the Governor, the Senate President Pro Tempore and the House Speaker. The Governor would control the panel, making five appointments on the nine-member panel.
"I think the Governor of our state, whether it's Frank Keating or some future chief executive, would want that kind of authority. This legislation provides them with a mechanism to do it responsibly," noted Senator Long.
The lawmaker added that he expects Governor Keating to back the measure, given his consistent support of tax cuts. He pointed to the Governor's latest call for tax breaks for the energy industry as an example.
"I'm willing to work with Governor Keating on the energy crisis, but at the same time I want to emphasize the burdens that a lot of working Oklahomans are facing. They're being crushed by high tag fees, grocery taxes and all kinds of levies. They deserve some relief," said Long.
This is the second tax cut bill authored by Senator Long this year. He has also filed legislation which would cut vehicle excise taxes and tag renewal fees.