Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Budget Battle Is between Tax Spenders and Tax Cutters

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Budget Battle Is between Tax Spenders and Tax Cutters

Article excerpt

Republican Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Todd Hiett, Kellyville, by a vote of 64-34, sent a major income tax cut measure, a key component of his proposed 2007 state budget, back to the Senate last week.

It was a clear indication of a shift of his emphasis toward the budget and tax cuts, which is normal at this stage of the session.

He is the House author of Senate Bill 2022 by state Sen. Scott Pruitt, R-Tulsa, cutting the maximum state income tax rate from 6.25 percent to 4.9 percent, amounting to $171 million in 2007 and $480 million when fully implemented.

It is part of a three-pronged Republican plan to eliminate the estate tax, which would not happen until 2008, and offer a child- care tax credit for stay-at-home parents.

The bill was returned to the Senate in a form identical to the one it passed earlier by a vote of 35-11, including votes by Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, and at least 12 other Democrats who voted for it.

In an editorial April 10, The Wall Street Journal praised Senate Democrats for their earlier vote, calling Oklahoma's punitive tax policy (a) conspicuous inhibitor of growth. It admitted the Democrats may backtrack. They will.

The Senate could accept it and send it to the governor. It won't. Because the title was restored in the House, Senate Democrats can reject the bill and send it to conference, a clear indication their first vote was a political sham.

Hiett's proposed budget framework covers key spending commitments.

For teachers, there is the previously promised second phase of a $1,200 annual pay raise.

Funding the critical $300 million roads and bridges repair and maintenance plan in House Bill 2940, which also dedicates 30 percent of revenues from the motor vehicle tax for county roads, is included in Hiett's proposed budget.

It provides for increasing the number of case workers to handle child abuse cases and annualizes the $24 million supplemental appropriation to the Department of Corrections.

For health care, it fully funds Medicaid at a cost of $90 million and adds $61 million to raise medical provider rates for all medical services to 100 percent of Medicare. …

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