Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Time for Blinking on Budget and Tax Cuts

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Commentary: Time for Blinking on Budget and Tax Cuts

Article excerpt

Heading down the stretch run toward sine die adjournment of the Legislature on May 26, Republican leaders in the House and Democrat leaders in the Senate are racing for the finish line from opposite directions.

Speaker of the House Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville, and Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan, D-Stillwater, seemed destined to collide over funding state government, and tax cuts.

Apparently Gov. Brad Henry is sitting in the grandstand.

The speaker wants to cut the maximum income tax rate from 6.25 percent to 4.9 percent. That rate applies to any taxpayer with a net taxable income of $10,000 or more, hardly just for the rich as Morgan claims. Most middle-income-class people pay that maximum rate. The cut would save taxpayers about $171 million the first year.

Hiett also proposes to eliminate the estate tax.

Morgan along with state Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, D-Ardmore and vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee, wants to do the spending first and then consider tax cuts. They countered the House's $6 billion budget with a $6.5 billion proposal.

Hiett says more funding for higher education and teacher pay raises and other spending are negotiable but should be considered after settling on the tax cuts. But he also suggests the possibility of a compromise.

Senate Democrat leaders are the ones saying they are not interested in his tax plan. Using class-dividing rhetoric that is more political than reality, they are taking a hard-line stance. Morgan boasts Hiett's tax cuts have united Senate Democrats in opposition to them and support for their spending plan. They argue the state needs to catch up on government needs before cutting taxes.

Unfortunately, with higher and common education and many other areas of state government, there is never enough money to catch up because wants tend to morph into needs.

A chasm divides the House Republicans and Senate Democrats. So far Henry has shown little leadership in trying to bring them together. The result is talk of a June special session to complete the budget. That threat was initiated by Senate Democrats and is further evidence of their reticence to negotiate. …

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