Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

House Republicans' Legislative Agenda Focuses on Tax Cuts

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

House Republicans' Legislative Agenda Focuses on Tax Cuts

Article excerpt

House Republicans unveiled their New Year's resolutions for the 1998 legislative session Tuesday saying they will concentrate on continued efforts to achieve broad-based tax cuts, stiffer prison sentences for criminals and educational "basics."

House Minority Leader Larry Ferguson, R-Cleveland, said the GOP agenda -- "The 4 E's" -- will focus on education, economic development, empowering families and effective criminal justice.

The 36-member House Republican Caucus "developed this agenda after a series of meetings in Tulsa and Oklahoma City," Ferguson said. The main focus will be "some kind of a tax cut," he said, adding that caucus members are giving Democratic lawmakers a "multiple choice." "We endorse them all but will take anything we can get," he said of Republican proposals calling for an income tax cut, a new estate tax exemption and the repeal of the sales and motor vehicle excise taxes. House Minority Floor Leader-elect Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, will sponsor a proposal by Gov. Frank Keating to reduce Oklahoma's 7 percent personal income tax to 4 percent. Morgan said the reduction would be phased in over six years, at the rate of 0.5 percent per year, and would be suspended during periods of economic downturn. He said the proposal would cost the state $40 million in the first year. "Oklahomans are not paid enough and they're certainly taxed too much," he said. An income tax cut, he said, would increase each worker's take-home pay and thereby boost each family's disposable income. Oklahoma's economy has generated $800 million in new tax revenues over the past three years, Ferguson said. "The Legislature appropriated $4.5 billion in 1997," he said. "How much is enough?" Reps. Frank Davis, R-Guthrie, and Ray Vaughn, R-Edmond, want to raise the estate tax exemption. Oklahoma's estate tax exemption is $600,000 for certain family businesses and certain family farms and $175,000 for individuals, Vaughn said. Under current state law, he said, lineal heirs -- parents and children -- receive a $175,000 tax exemption but collateral heirs -- aunts, uncles and cousins -- receive no tax exclusion at all. He said he wants to change the law to equalize the exemption for collateral and lineal heirs. Davis and Vaughn also are proposing to elevate the state tax exemption from $175,000 to $250,000, then boost it another $50,000 each year until it reaches $600,000. Rep. Wayne Pettigrew, R-Edmond, wants to repeal the 3.25 percent state excise tax on new cars and trucks. He said Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation in the amount of tax imposed on motor vehicles. "When you have to borrow money to pay a tax," he said, "it's too high." Pettigrew's plan would phase out the vehicle excise tax over a five-year period. The reduction would save Oklahomans an estimated $32 million in the first year and about $158 million per year when fully implemented, he said. …

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