Lawmakers to focus on tax reform

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

The 2012 legislative session is upon us and lawmakers are ready to again tackle a reduction in Oklahoma’s income tax. Revenues are up and hopes are high for a flat budget instead of a budget shortfall. This session presents a great opportunity to reduce the income tax burden and further move the state towards greater economic prosperity.

There is a call to restore funding for national board certification for teachers, after the state board chose to cut funding to this program to absorb the reduction in education funding. I suspect that lawmakers will restore that funding and that education will not be cut further. However, nothing is ever set in stone with the state budget, especially as we are further updated on revenue developments. My focus has always been to prioritize roads and bridges, public safety, economic development and education over programs and services that most Oklahomans would just as soon scrap in order to lower their tax rate.

A legislative task force on tax reform issued a report in December, which includes recommendations on reforms to enable reductions in the top income tax rate from 5.25 to 4.75 percent over a two-year period and reduce the corporate income tax rate from 6 to 5 percent. We are working towards the eventual elimination of the state income tax, but in order to do so, must continue to modernize state government to do more for less. In this case, the plan is to offset reductions through the elimination of select tax credits and breaks that are not performing as advertised. I would point out that as the rate continues to decline, so does the need for incentives.

Reforming the Department of Human Services is a top priority of mine. Accountability must be brought back to this agency. I plan to support legislation to streamline the agency’s “bureaucracy gone mad” organizational chart. I also plan to introduce legislation to ensure state law clearly states that children have no business in the home of a sex offender and address the failed DHS policy of “re-unification” at all costs.

Lawmakers will also be working to shore up protections for Oklahoma’s water resources. Possible topics of legislation include water-related infrastructure funding, instituting best practices in conservation and creating regional water groups.

I am excited about the opportunities to make your state government work for you, not the other way around. As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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