State tax cuts

In a budget year with a predicted $1.3 billion shortfall, today is a major day in the Oklahoma Legislature; it's the last day (ostensibly) during which the state legislature can consider revenue bills. So far, very few bills have passed that have narrowed the budget gap...and time, of course, is seriously running out at this point. So, what is going through the minds of state lawmakers today? We put this question to Steve Lewis, who joins us by phone from the State Capitol Building.

There are six waterways in eastern Oklahoma that are considered so environmentally and economically significant they're given special consideration and protection from the state. These so-called Scenic Rivers were profiled in a special half-hour radio doc created by StateImpact reporters Joe Wertz and Logan Layden in 2014. This doc was originally aired as a four-part radio series, and we are pleased to re-broadcast it today on StudioTulsa.

On this installment of ST, we speak with Wayne Greene, the editorial pages editor at the Tulsa World. As noted at the World's website, Greene is a "fourth-generation Oklahoman in his third decade with the [newspaper]. As a reporter he covered several bank failures, one prison riot, three executions, and every aspect of state government during four years at the World's state capitol bureau. He became the World's city editor on April 1, 1995, and served in that post for nearly 13 years.

Yesterday at the State Capitol, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin offered her recommendations to the State Legislature on how to fill next year's estimated $1.3 billion budget deficit. Her "Budget 2.0" provides for exempting Common Education, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, and Mental Health Services from cuts -- while also exempting cuts in other areas, including higher education -- and offers significant revenue enhancements to the budget as well.

Oklahoma State Capitol

The Republican state senate Finance Chairman says lawmakers should consider delaying the income tax cut that went into effect January 1st. Tulsa Senator Mike Mazzei believes it’s a prudent option given the state’s dire financial predicament. Tulsa area Representative Glen Mulready, also a Republican, agrees. He doesn’t want to eliminate the income tax reduction, but says a delay or postponement until better financial times is reasonable.

KWGS News Photo

A letter has gone to Oklahoma political leaders calling for a halt to a tax cut set to go into effect in January. Those behind the letter believe it is irresponsible to continue with the cut given the current budget crisis. The Oklahoma Policy Institute’s David Blatt says it’s unfair for the state to require the faith community, businesses, non-profits, and philanthropists to take up more and more of the burden.

He says the cut to the ‘top income tax rate will add millions of dollars to the budget shortfall…and will benefit very few Oklahomans.’

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.

Our guest on this edition of ST is Peter Fisher, research director at the Iowa Policy Project, who co-wrote a recently published paper, "A Well-Educated Workforce Is Key to State Prosperity," for the Economic Analysis and Research Network.

Tax Cut Bill Stalled

Apr 3, 2013
State of Oklahoma-File photo

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has stalled a leadership-backed bill to cut the state's income tax and then declined to explain why the bill has been laid over.

The decision Tuesday by Tulsa Republican Sen. Mike Mazzei comes one day after a separate income tax proposal Mazzei sponsored was soundly rejected by a House committee.

When approached by reporters after the meeting, Mazzei declined to respond to questions and said he had a pressing meeting to attend.

KWGS News File Photo

Advocates of cutting the state income tax quote polls showing a majority of Oklahomans favor the reductions. But a new poll released by the Oklahoma Advocacy Project shows the opposite is true, if it would mean less funding for schools, roads, and public safety.

David Blatt with the Oklahoma Policy Institute says the poll also shows many voters oppose paying for the cut by eliminating popular tax credit programs, as proposed by the Governor and legislative leaders.