Oklahoma City ( Associated Press) — The Oklahoma Legislature will return to the Capitol for a special session to consider tax cuts in line with the governor’s will and how to allocate federal COVID-19 relief funds, part of the American Rescue Plan Act.
As the session opens on Monday, Gov. Kevin Stitt wants lawmakers to consider eliminating the state sales tax on groceries and reducing the top personal income tax rate from 4.75% to 4.5%.
“Oklahoma is one of just 13 states that tax groceries, and it affects those most who can least afford it. Our strong fiscal discipline over the years has allowed us to do this tax. and now is the right time to do it,” Stitt said when he announced last month that he planned to ask lawmakers to return.,
It’s not clear whether the GOP-controlled House and Senate will have votes to approve both of those items. Democrats support abolishing the grocery tax, but they oppose reducing the personal income tax.
Some Republicans have also urged caution about cutting taxes, as it takes a three-quarters vote from the Legislature to raise taxes. But House Speaker Charles McCall said in a statement that unspecified bills intended to offset inflation would be introduced.
“House Republicans support all plans and avenues for Oklahomans to get the most inflation relief,” McCall said.
Details of the bills were not released, but McCall said they would be introduced on Monday and would address personal income tax, grocery tax and business taxes.
According to McCall, “we expect some combination of these bills, but not all of them, to reach the finish line and become law.”
Meanwhile, the Legislature has called a special session of its own to determine how best to distribute the $1.8 billion allocated to Oklahoma by the federal government. According to a joint House and Senate press release, the resolutions they may consider Monday include:
– $15 million to complete the School of Optometry at Northeastern State University in Tahlequa.
– $8.8 million for projects to address nursing staff shortages.
– $250,000 for the Health Workforce Training Commission to administer nursing workforce programs.
– $25 million to pool funding for eligible nonprofit recovery programs.
– $39.4 million to complete Oklahoma Children’s Hospital Behavioral Health Center.
– $500,000 to provide initial assistance to open state broadband offices, which legislative leaders say will be reimbursed through other federal funds once they are accessed.