Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Lawmakers: Reduce State Income Tax

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Oklahoma Lawmakers: Reduce State Income Tax

Article excerpt

Though Oklahoma has made strides in creating a pro-business atmosphere during the past year, more work is needed, including a major reduction in the state's personal income tax, two Republican legislative leaders told state business leaders recently.

Democrats countered that eliminating such a huge slice of state revenue could hamper economic development, infrastructure and growth.

Speaking at a public policy forum sponsored by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce, state Senate Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R- Sapulpa, and House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said the 2011 legislative session was a success for the business community.

"Last year, we had three major things on top of our agenda," Bingman said. "Jobs, jobs and jobs. And I think we did a great job last year."

With a new governor and new leadership in the Senate and the House, Bingman said lawmakers were able to accomplishment things they had wanted to do for many years. One of big issues for the next session, he said, would be the state's system of tax incentives.

"Certainly we want to address the tax credits and our tax structure," he said. "No one wants to pay taxes, but at the same time we want to make sure we can fund all the necessary things that we think government should provide to make our state strong."

State Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, the House minority leader, said he supported many of the business initiatives passed during the 2011 legislative session, but cautioned Republican leaders - and chamber members - that a wholesale elimination of the income tax would take more than $2 billion out of the state's budget over next decade.

"The Republicans have supermajorities in the House and the Senate," Inman said. "They can do whatever they want. However, just because you can doesn't mean you should."

Completely eliminating the income tax will harm the state's education and its roads and bridges, Inman said.

"You all know where we rank in terms of education, in terms of funding for higher education and in terms of funding for roads and bridges," he said. "It's terrible, terrible. It takes money to fund those programs. If you all want to put your production on the highway, on I-35 and ship it to Texas or anywhere else, and you want to bring businesses in, they can't be driving their semis over potholes. …

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