Calling the Oklahoma Legislature into special session a week before its regular 2024 session begins Feb. 5 is vital to addressing tax cuts, Gov. Kevin Stitt said.
Stitt announced this week that his executive order directing the House and Senate to a Jan. 29 special session focused on what he calls a “much deserved tax cut,” something the state can afford because of record-breaking savings and a strong economic outlook. In that executive order, Stitt said the majority of Oklahomans support cutting income taxes so they can keep more of what they have and residents deserve to know where members of the Legislature stand on the proposal to cut individual income tax rates by 0.25 percent.
“I fundamentally believe in smaller government and lower taxes,” Stitt said Thursday in a virtual press conference, explaining the State of Oklahoma has a revenue surplus so it can afford a tax cut to benefit residents.
It’s the third time Stitt has called for a special session specifically to address tax cuts. When he called the Legislature back into session in October 2023, the Senate adjourned without taking any action. Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, addressing the new special session, has said the Senate doesn’t know how much money the state will have to spend this year until the Board of Equalization meets to certify budget numbers in February. House Speaker Charles McCall is more open to the idea, noting he already has filed multiple bills that would cut personal income by 0.25 percent or 0.50 percent.
Stitt said he wants to address the issue now, not put it off, adding that in 2023, the Senate’s reaction was “let’s study this issue” and wait until next year’s regular session. Stitt said he isn’t willing to wait, and he has some support. He said the House has passed the tax cut proposal every time he has asked, and leadership has said members will do it again next week.
Action is less clear in the Senate, and Stitt said what he wants is somebody he can actually talk to and negotiate with. He said tax cuts are important because not only do they invest more money in the economy, they control government growth. And as a businessman/governor, he knows it is important to invest in programs and state infrastructure, but also to give residents “a pay raise with a tax cut” while slowing the growth of government.
It’s not a new idea.
“We’ve been on the path to zero,” Stitt said of the income tax, explaining that 20 years ago, Oklahoma’s income tax was 7 percent, but it has slowly decreased.
And as taxes have come down, revenues have increased and the economy has expanded, he said, adding that, in turn, is attracting more people to Oklahoma because of its business-friendly atmosphere.
“We want to keep that momentum going as a business-friendly state,” he said.
The Legislature has multiple options, Stitt said, adding when he called the Legislature into session in 2023, his State of the State included a smorgasbord of options. One was removing the tax on groceries, an option he still favors.