Oklahoma tax-cut session proceeds, despite Senate

Budget & Tax

Ray Carter | January 29, 2024

Oklahoma tax-cut session proceeds, despite Senate

Ray Carter

A special legislative session to reduce Oklahoma’s personal income-tax rate convened on Jan. 29 with little fanfare—or fireworks.

Gov. Kevin Stitt called the session to lower Oklahoma’s personal income-tax rate from 4.75 percent to 4.5 percent, and House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, has indicated House lawmakers are prepared to quickly advance tax-cut legislation.

But in the days leading up to the tax-cut session, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R–Oklahoma City, issued a statement suggesting senators would try to stymie tax-cut measures.

“Nothing has changed in the Senate’s position since the last special session was called in October,” Treat said. “The Senate plans to gavel to call of the chair.”

When the Legislature convened in a prior special session to consider tax cuts, senators blocked consideration of any tax-cut proposals.

On the first day of the most recent special session, conducted on Oct. 3, 2023, the Senate voted to adjourn sine die, a procedural motion that ended the session and prevented any work on tax cuts in either chamber of the Legislature. The vote to end the session in less than one day was approved on a voice vote, preventing Senate lawmakers’ constituents from learning their legislators’ stance on tax cuts.

In contrast, the Jan. 29 Senate session was adjourned “to the call of the chair,” a motion that keeps the session ongoing and allows lawmakers to reconvene in special session at any time to consider tax-cut bills. In addition, the adjournment motion on Jan. 29 was a recorded vote that passed 30-13. The opponents of the adjournment motion were all Republicans, many of whom have publicly indicated their support for cutting taxes.

In a press conference following adjournment, Treat acknowledged that having the option to reconvene in special session means lawmakers can pass a tax cut much faster than what would occur in the normal processes of the regular legislative session, which begins on Monday, Feb. 5.

“Special sessions do not have the same deadlines of filing bills, so we could turn on a dime a little more quickly if we came to some kind of an agreement,” Treat said.

In a Jan. 25 interview with News 9, Oklahoma City’s CBS affiliate, McCall said House lawmakers would vote on tax-cut legislation by Wednesday, Jan. 31, which is the first day the vote can occur under the procedural rules that dictate the timeline for legislative action.

“We will show up and we will take the vote,” McCall told News 9.

Any legislation that passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives would then be eligible for a swift vote in the Senate whenever that legislative body reconvenes in special session.

“This is not a hard issue,” McCall said. “This is an issue that has been around. I don’t know what the difficulty is.”

Stitt has noted that the Oklahoma government has record savings—literally billions in reserve—that can be used to handle any future budget downturn. In addition, state tax collections continue to grow, and Oklahoma families are suffering from the worst inflation in four decades, which has effectively slashed the earnings power of many families.

The governor has said he would prefer to keep state spending flat in order to provide working families with a tax cut that effectively increases their take-home pay.

On Jan. 18, Stitt tweeted, “I don’t think we need to play Santa Claus with every government agency in existence. Oklahomans come first—that’s why I keep pushing for tax cuts.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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