A senate review by Senator Al McAffrey

~ Senator Al McAffrey ~

The hot issue during this year’s legislative session was income-tax cuts. Fortunately, legislative leaders at the Capitol couldn’t come to an agreement on a plan, so none was passed. I was relieved. The plans that remained on the table in May were bad ideas that wouldn’t have benefited a majority of working Oklahomans.

I’m not unilaterally opposed to tax cuts, but they must be carried out in a reasonable, fiscally responsible manner that doesn’t hurt the working or middle class. This issue deserves very careful consideration and debate, which it obviously didn’t receive during this year’s session.

One such plan that I thought would help most Oklahomans was the common-sense approach advocated by State Treasurer Ken Miller. Like him, I believe that whatever plan the Legislature approves, it must create a tax structure that generates “a stable, diversified revenue stream that sufficiently funds core services”.

Again, the income tax is our largest source of revenue, providing around thirty percent of the money budgeted each session. This coming fiscal year, it will provide around $2.4 billion of the $6.8 billion appropriated. Before getting to the general revenue fund each year, nearly $800 million in income taxes first goes to transportation, education, and teacher retirement. So this is a revenue source we must be extremely cautious when reducing it in any way.

Any plan to cut the income tax must also include cutting government spending, eliminating demonstrably ineffective tax incentives, and creating new sources of revenue. The failure of the three tax-cut proposals considered this session was good news for our citizens, as they didn’t include plans to reduce any of these others areas to help pay for the tax cut.

We just climbed out of one of the worst economic recessions in our state’s history, during which time our state agencies suffered through three years of substantial budget cuts. The Legislature must be mindful that citizens have made it clear that they want education funding restored, the child-welfare system fixed, our roads and bridges repaired, and our state government to invest in other critical areas to help strengthen our state’s economy and protect vital state services. The three tax-cut plans considered this year wouldn’t have helped the state accomplish any of these goals.

Work will continue on this issue, and I hope that next session our government leaders are more unified—and realistic—in their expectations from our state agencies. The Legislature must also be more informed about how any tax-cut plan will affect the state financially and weigh that information responsibly with our overall expectations about state services. Above all, Oklahoma’s road to prosperity must never be built on the backs of our working men and women and their families.

If you have any questions or comments, I can be reached by email at mcaffrey@oksenate.gov or by phone at (405) 521-5610. You can also write me: Senator Al McAffrey, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 533, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105.