Oklahoma Watch
Sept. 18, 2023
Democracy Watch

Legislature Will Answer Stitt’s Special Session Call 

Stitt advocates for tax cuts at the end of the 2022 Legislative session. (Paul Monies/Oklahoma Watch)

By Keaton Ross | Democracy/Criminal Justice Reporter

For the third consecutive year, Oklahoma lawmakers will return to the Capitol for a fall special session. 

Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order last Monday asking the Legislature to convene on Tuesday, Oct. 3 to consider a series of tax cuts and budget transparency measures. In a statement, Stitt said he wants lawmakers to pass a measure that would gradually reduce the state income tax to zero. 

Some Oklahoma taxpayers, including those who send their children to private schools and some married couples filing jointly, will benefit from measures passed during this year’s legislative session. But the most sweeping Stitt-endorsed measures, including bills eliminating the state’s grocery sales tax and lowering personal income tax rates, stalled in the Senate after passing through the House. 

In a late May press conference, Stitt said he was disappointed the Legislature didn’t take up sweeping tax cuts and hinted at calling lawmakers back to the Capitol to reconsider the measures. 

“We’re getting further and further behind,” Stitt said on May 26, referencing states like Pennsylvania and Michigan that have lower income tax rates. 

In seperate press conferences, House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat confirmed that their caucuses will return to the Capitol and hear out Stitt’s plan. But the two legislative leaders are once again at odds over tax policy. 

Treat called Stitt’s request vague and asked the governor to appear at an Oct. 3 meeting of the Senate Appropriations Committee to answer questions on his plan to recoup about $4 billion in annual revenue. Stitt is considering the request, Quorum Call’s Shawn Ashley reported. 

“I personally, philosophically, would love to see zero income tax,” Treat said. “But no state has had an income tax and gotten rid of it entirely.”

McCall said Thursday he’s open to Stitt’s zero income tax idea, arguing that Oklahoma needs to cut its rates to remain competitive with surrounding states. 

“Tax cuts themselves don’t mean less revenue for the state,” McCall told reporters. “I think those that say it’s $4 billion in lost income to the state are not looking at the dynamics of when you lower taxes, people spend more.”

House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson and Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, both Democrats from Oklahoma City, criticized the governor for pushing his agenda outside of the usual legislative process. 

“The Constitution directs us to govern in a way that allows for public input and thorough examination through the committee process,” Floyd said in a statement. “Special sessions should only be used for urgent issues, not regular policy proposals rooted in political ideology.”

The top rate of the state income tax was cut eight times between 2004 and 2021, declining from 7 to 4.75% in the highest bracket, according to an Oklahoma Policy Institute analysis. Eight states, including neighboring Texas, don’t levy income tax on their residents and generate revenue through higher sales or property taxes. 

What are your thoughts on this special session? What coverage would you like to see from Oklahoma Watch? Let me know at Kross@Oklahomawatch.org

What I’m Reading This Week

  • Oklahoma is Set to Execute 10th Man in Less Than Two Years: The state plans to execute 44-year-old Anthony Sanchez by lethal injection on Thursday afternoon. Sanchez waived his clemency hearing this summer, saying he didn’t believe Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt would grant him a reprieve even if the five-member state Pardon and Parole Board recommended it. [The Frontier]
  • Oklahoma Lawmakers Double Poll Worker Pay to Help Address Shortages: Oklahoma lawmakers are banking that the $225-per-day rate will entice more people to work on Election Day. The increase takes effect on July 1, 2024. [Oklahoma Voice]
  • Raises Reported for Oklahoma State Agency Directors: Thirty-five of 49 agency heads received a raise of at least $10,000 in the past fiscal year. Corrections director Steven Harpe and Commissioner of Health Keith Reed got a $90,000 pay pump, according to a report from the state Office of Management of Enterprise Services. [NonDoc

The Top Story

State Rep. Eric Roberts, R-Oklahoma City, asks State Election Board Secretary Paul Ziriax a question during an interim study on ranked choice voting held Sept. 12, 2023 at the Oklahoma State Capitol. (Keaton Ross/Oklahoma Watch)

Oklahoma Lawmakers Weigh Restrictions on Ranked-choice Voting

Advocates for ranked-choice voting say the system makes elections less negative and more issue-based. But questions linger over the logistics of adopting the system in Oklahoma’s municipal and statewide elections. [Read More]

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