Governor Stitt Pushes for Grocery Tax Elimination Despite State Senate Challenge
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt called on lawmakers to cut state income tax and eliminate the sales tax on groceries, and immediately met resistance from government leadership. Senate that said such cuts would not be the “right way” to provide financial relief.
Stitt announced his wish list a day before the start of a special session focused on allocating nearly $2 billion in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
Lawmakers will consider spending millions on a wide range of issues: the expansion of high-speed internet; establishment of health care facilities focusing on mental health services, obesity, funding for drought relief, construction of nine emergency operations centres; sewage improvement, and more.
“When the Legislature returns to spend $2 billion in taxpayer dollars, the least we can do is pass a food tax cut,” Stitt said in a statement Wednesday. “Now is the time to do it. As governor, I represent all 4 million Oklahomans – they need this help and we can afford it.
Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Treat and other members of the Republican leadership said the tax cuts would not be considered in the chamber during the special session.
“We went through years where we had shortfalls of $1.3 billion. We don’t want those years to repeat themselves,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson. “Looking at tax cuts holistically and taking a deliberate approach is the best way for us to achieve tax reform.”
In the House of Representatives, which has passed a food tax cut in previous sessions, Majority Leader Jon Echols said Wednesday that the House is ready to move forward with proposals for Stitt.
A group of Republican lawmakers from both chambers held a press conference Wednesday with their own demands for the special session: Pass Stitt’s proposed tax cuts and, additionally, create a statewide ban on gender transition medical procedures on children.
“If we can be called upon to distribute this money, we could be called upon to bring real relief to the people of Oklahoma,” said Sen. Nathan Dahm, a Republican from Broken Arrow.
House and Senate leaders declined to respond to Dahm’s request after the press conference.
Lawmakers will meet on Thursday for a one-day session.