(Oklahoma City) The Oklahoma Legislature will return for special session on September 7th, but it does not plan to take up the issue of tax reform then, according to House Speaker Larry Adair and Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor.
The two legislative leaders announced today that they want to address several pressing issues during the session, but will delay any action on a proposed tax reform package until a later date.
"Until there is a formal tax reform plan on the table, there is very little that the Legislature can do to address the issue. Any proposal that is ultimately introduced needs to be thoroughly debated in public before any legislative action is considered," said Speaker Adair (D-Stilwell).
"We need to give the public plenty of time to provide input on tax reform and review any proposals that are made. I remain committed to exploring every possible option for eliminating the income tax and the sales tax on groceries," said Senator Taylor (D-Claremore).
The special session agenda outlined by Governor Frank Keating currently consists of tax reform, federal tax rebates and congressional redistricting. However, Rep. Adair and Sen. Taylor want to expand the agenda to include the Multiple Injury Trust Fund and a disputed budget reconciliation bill that was approved in the final days of the regular session in May. Several Republican lawmakers have challenged the appropriations measure in court.
In an effort to resolve that pending lawsuit in an efficient and inexpensive manner, the legislative leaders are planning to separate the budget measure into several pieces of legislation and pass the appropriations again. Both Rep. Adair and Sen. Taylor stressed that their decision to divide the legislation does not mean that they believe lawmakers acted improperly when they passed the original appropriations bill. The two leaders said they simply don't want to waste taxpayer funds on a legal battle or risk the budget disruption that might result if the lawsuit was successful.
"We think the appropriations bill passes legal muster, but we think we owe it to taxpayers to try and resolve this dispute outside of the courtroom. It's a good common sense solution," said Sen. Taylor.
"I fully believe we can resolve this issue during our special session since the original bill passed both houses of the Legislature with a bipartisan vote and was signed into law by Governor Keating," said Rep Adair.
Both Sen. Taylor and Rep. Adair expressed confidence that Governor Keating would expand the special session call to include the disputed budget bill and the Multiple Injury Trust Fund. The lawmakers also remained hopeful that they would be able to address the other agenda items - congressional redistricting and federal tax rebates - during their meeting.