House, Senate leaders trade barbs on action on tax relief legislation | Local News

OKLAHOMA CITY — House lawmakers on Wednesday passed a “buffet” of inflation-relief tax options aimed at lowering taxes on groceries and personal income, but Senate leaders from state said their actions amounted to little more than “complete political theater” that “fooled” even the governor.

Senate Speaker Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said the House “wasted” more than $20,000 a day for three days on “political shenanigans.” He said they went into session and adopted an “assortment of ideas” before adjourning, effectively ending the special session. Treat said that even if the Senate wanted to act on the measures, they could not be sent to the governor because of complex rules governing the legislative process.

“They give an assortment of ideas without any leadership,” Treat said. “They literally throw things against the wall. They rely on us to be the adults in the room. We’ll be the adults in the room, but I’m beside myself that someone is falling for it.

Treat said he believes Governor Kevin Stitt, who released a statement praising the passing of the legislation, got the deal ‘wrong and doesn’t realize’ the legislation can’t get to his desk. . He said the Senate had already begun to conduct “thorough and thoughtful study” using a tax reform task force before passing any legislation.

On Wednesday, the House sent the Senate legislation containing more than $500 million in tax cuts aimed at helping Oklahomans — at least temporarily — cope with soaring gasoline and oil prices. groceries as part of a comprehensive inflation-fighting program.

The bills provide state senators with the ability to temporarily or permanently reduce the state’s food tax and personal income tax rates. Local food tax rates would remain intact, although measures passed by the State House would prohibit municipalities and counties from attempting to raise food tax rates while the state moratorium remains in effect. vigor. Any temporary tax reduction would last for two years. Senators also have the option to increase the state’s grocery sales tax credit from $40 to $200.

State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, said the State House offered a “buffet of bills” to choose from, and said Oklahoma was in a strong financial position and lawmakers needed to provide a inflation relief now.

“It’s hard to take the position of bragging about the large surplus we have while having Oklahoma taxpayers paying over $4.50 at the pump and high amounts (at the grocery store ), etc., while we are not doing anything to address this inflation, this very real inflation that they are experiencing,” he said.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, said in a statement late Wednesday that the Senate had spent all week “finding reasons not to help Oklahomans fight inflation.” He said they had begun studies, refused to write bills, and now deliberately would not call a session to act on House bills and measures Stitt requested. He argued that the Senate was not barred from acting on legislation.

McCall said the Senate “runs out of excuses.”

“Oklahomans are tired of waiting,” he said. “The Senate should act now.”

Majority Leader Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said inflation relief could come as soon as the Senate “stops delaying and starts acting.”

“Ultimately, if the Senate passes bills instead of fabricating bogus legal excuses, Oklahomans may stop paying state sales tax on groceries on July 1,” said echos. “If senators don’t want to help Oklahomans, they should just say so and stop blaming everyone but themselves.”

House lawmakers are proposing to fund the tax cuts using hundreds of millions of dollars they say are currently sitting idle in the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s coffers. House lawmakers did not advance previous plans to cut the governor’s office budget to pay for the measures.

“Oklahoma families need relief from inflation now, and I’m glad the House passed legislation to eliminate the state’s food sales tax and reduce the personal income tax, which I called for in my State of the State address in February,” Stitt said in a statement.

In May, Stitt vetoed the Legislature’s plan to provide one-time $75 inflation-proof checks to all Oklahoma taxpayers later this year. Lawmakers did not have enough votes to override the veto.

Stitt said that since convening his special session last month, inflation has risen 8.6% overall, food prices have risen more than 10% and the inflation crisis is not showing no signs of slowing down.

Stitt said the Senate has already passed tax cuts this year, so he’s optimistic they’ll work together to “deliver the inflation relief Oklahomans need.”

“Oklahoma families need real relief right now,” Stitt said.

Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI newspapers and websites. Contact her at [email protected]

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