Oklahoma State Income Tax

What's to be done regarding the troubling condition of Oklahoma's budget? Lawmakers in OKC have only about a month left to address this serious budget shortfall in the 2017 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, and fixing what Gov. Fallin has recently called "the state's structural budget deficit" seems less and less likely. Therefore, about two dozen nonprofit and professional organizations from across the state have formed the so-called Save Our State Coalition. Our guest is David Blatt, executive director of the OK Policy Institute, which is a member of this coalition.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday the 21st, the State Board of Equalization met in Oklahoma City to approve revised revenue estimates for FY 2017 and FY 2018. The revised estimates for FY 2017 are for revenues to be "under" by some $296 million, or 5.7 percent, and thus a revenue failure has been declared. This is the third time since 2000 that there have been revenue failures for the state budget in two consecutive years; it also happened in 2002-03 and 2009-10. How did the State of Oklahoma (once again) get here? And does the budget outlook for next year look any better?

As 2016 gets underway, the most vexing question confronting Oklahoma legislators, policymakers, and various state agency heads is...how will the Sooner State solve the glaring budget hole that Oklahomans will face this year -- and next year. State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger has declared a "revenue failure" for this year, resulting in a 3% cut to all state budgets funded by General Revenue -- and the preliminary projection of revenue for next year sees a shortfall of $900 million out of an approximately $7 billion state budget.

As our state's newly inaugurated legislative session continues, there's been no shortage of bills that've attracted attention from the national media -- for less than favorable reasons -- including bills that would ban "hoodies" or AP History classes, or those that would allow Oklahoma businesses to discriminate against their gay customers or else end civil marriages altogether. What we have not seen -- not yet, anyway -- is a responsible discussion of how to fill a $611 million shortfall in next year's budget.

Should we --- could we --- really do away with the personal income tax here in Oklahoma? The State Legislature is now considering various proposals to reduce and/or eliminate the state's personal income tax; these proposals are largely based on a study prepared for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs by economist (and former Reagan administration economic advisor) Arthur Laffer and his colleagues. But what if this study is, in fact, bogus? That's the claim now being made by a number of well-respected economists across the state.