OKLAHOMA CITY – Republican legislators sided yet again Tuesday with the wealthy over working-class Oklahomans.
House Bill 2348 would decouple the state’s standard tax deduction from the federal standard tax deduction. The bill would freeze in state statute the standard deduction -- $6,350 for single filers, $12,700 for married filers, and $9,350 for head of household – for calculating adjusted gross income.
The legislation narrowly passed the House of Representatives on Tuesday, 51-44, and was transmitted to the Senate for consideration.
Rep. Lewis Moore, R-Edmond, said fiscal analysts calculate that the bill would produce $4.4 million for the state treasury in Fiscal Year 2018 and $11 million annually thereafter.
A Republican legislator, Rep. Jason Murphey of Guthrie, noted that just last month President Trump proposed doubling the standard federal deduction. If HB 2348 is enacted and Trump’s proposal is adopted, Oklahomans who don’t itemize will lose a substantial tax benefit, opponents of the bill argued.
Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City, condemned HB 2348 as an attempt to balance the state budget “on the backs of the working poor.”
GOP leaders and legislators have claimed repeatedly that “cutting taxes will improve our economy” and “put more money in people’s pockets,” said Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha. But because of GOP reductions in gross production taxes and income tax cuts, HB 2348 would “take more money from the pockets of working Oklahomans” to help plug a gaping hole in the state budget.
The State of Oklahoma faces a budget deficit of $878 million, and still has to repay, by June 30, $240.7 million that state Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger “borrowed” from the state’s “rainy day” fund.
HB 2348 is yet another example of Republican measures that “shift the tax burden from the wealthy to the poor,” Perryman said.
Capping the standard tax deduction would adversely affect “people who can least afford it,” because they don’t itemize their deductions, House Minority Leader Scott Inman said.
As state revenues have shrunk from multiple tax concessions for energy producers, corporations and wealthy citizens, and simultaneously the Republican majority proposes to increase motor fuel taxes by 6¢ per gallon, “Our working families have paid the price,” said Inman, D-Del City.
Inman asked Moore whether HB 2348 should require approval from three-fourths of the House membership, in accordance with State Question 640, since the bill would raise revenue.
That constitutional amendment, which Oklahoma voters adopted in 1992, decrees that any “revenue bill” originating in the state House of Representatives “may become law without being submitted to a vote of the people if the bill “receives the approval of three-fourths of the membership of the House of Representatives [76 votes] and three-fourths of the membership of the Senate [36 votes] and is submitted to the Governor for appropriate action.”
“This is not a new tax,” Moore said. “It just changes the tax.”
HB 2348, a 69-page measure, was opposed by 24 Democrats and 20 Republicans. All 51 votes in support of the measure were cast by Republicans. http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf/2017-18%20SUPPORT%20DOCUMENTS/votes/House/HB2348_VOTES.HTM