The Step Up Oklahoma Plan is Popular. Why Isn't the Legislature Acting on It?

Jan 25, 2018

The Step Up Oklahoma plan is picking up steam — there's a new supporter seemingly every day, and Gov. Mary Fallin changed her special session call to mirror many of its tax proposals.

Business leaders who put together the proposal say their tax changes will bring in enough revenue to fill the current-year budget shortfall and give teachers a $5,000 raise and still send almost $400 million into state coffers. Why aren’t lawmakers moving along state business leaders’ ideas in special session?

Senate Appropriations Chair Kim David said it comes down to lawmakers supporting some pieces but not others.

"It started out as, 'Here’s our plan, and we want this plan and no other plan,' and I think that everyone around the table now is finally realizing that it will take a little more negotiating than that," David said. "We do answer to our constituents, and to try to get that 75 percent vote, which is going to be tough even on our side now because we’ve lost the momentum, is going to take some more momentum."

House Democratic Caucus Chair Emily Virgin said the party has some reservations.

"There’s a proposal to put a gross production tax on wind, which we feel is wholly unfair because they pay as valorem taxes, and oil and gas doesn’t," Virgin said.

Virgin also said the plan’s tax proposals don’t do enough to help middle- and low-income Oklahomans.

"So, if we could get rid of capital gains, pay for part of bringing back the standard deduction, we feel like that would make a lot of progress in making the income tax portion more progressive," Virgin said.

The Step Up plan reduces standard deduction amounts, which already trail the newly doubled federal standard deduction. Lawmakers froze the state deduction last year.

David also said with the state's economy improving, there's less urgency at the capitol to fix the budget.