Fallin Proposes Income Tax Cut, Discusses Education In Annual Address
Gov. Mary Fallin is proposing a .25 percent reduction in Oklahoma's income tax rate.
Fallin made the proposal Monday while delivering her State of the State address at the start of the 2014 Oklahoma Legislature.
“In the coming days and the weeks, I know what we’ll hear," Fallin said. "Those who like bigger government and higher taxes will say the sky is falling. Entrenched interest groups and even possibly some agency heads may say the same thing. But guess what? It’s not.”
The governor says she believes that responsibly lowering the income tax is the right thing to do. The governor says it's the people's money and it should stay with the people.
She called Oklahomans and the private sector "the true engines of job creation" — not the state government.
Fallin says a tax cut would allow people to invest in businesses, spend money and help create Oklahoma jobs. Fallin says her executive budget includes an additional quarter-point income tax reduction that would return over $100 million to the state economy if fully realized.
This year, lawmakers are expected to have $170 million less for appropriations than they had last year. Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage (D-Claremore) said now is not the time for another income tax cut.
“That’s almost $300 million dollars you’re taking out of the state budget," Burrage says. "That, to me, is fiscally irresponsible.”
The governor spent a good deal of time in her speech talking about policies her administration has already put in place to improve the quality of Oklahoma’s public schools and Career Technology centers.
She also expressed her continued support for a set of educational standards commonly referred to as Common Core. But Fallin avoided using the term which has become a hot button issue among some conservative Republicans at the state Capitol.
Fallin acknowledged this is a tight budget year, with more than 170-million dollars less to spend, but she does want lawmakers to provide more cash for schools.
The governor also touted other education programs under her watch, including an increase in the number of college graduates in the state.
Fallin is also proposing a plan to help local school districts pursue safety upgrades like storm shelters, safe rooms and precautions against active shooters.
The need for storm shelters in Oklahoma's public schools has been discussed since a massive tornado struck Moore in May, killing seven students at Plaza Towers Elementary School.
The governor says she supports House Joint Resolution 1092, a constitutional amendment that would allow every school district to pursue a one-time increase in bonding capacity to fund upgrades like storm shelters.
Fallin says it's a responsible plan for improving safety and security at Oklahoma schools without the need for new taxes and mandates.
The governor also announced a plan to address an imbalance between state worker pay and benefits.
Fallin says she wants to offer targeted salary increases to some state employees who are paid below market value.
She says she also wants to alter the current pay system to one that rewards performance over time served. She says doing so will encourage better productivity and services.
The governor also wants new workers hired within the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System to be moved from a pension system to a 401k-style retirement benefits used in the private sector.
Fallin also proposed a bond issue to repair the state's nearly century-old Capitol building.
She announced the proposal Monday as she delivered her State of the State address at the start of the 2014 Oklahoma Legislature.
The governor says the building has become a safety hazard. She says the building's exterior is falling apart to the point where officials worry about state employees and visitors — including teachers and students on field trips — being hit by falling pieces of the facade.
She says raw sewage is leaking into the Capitol basement. On good days, she says, visitors can only see the disrepair. On bad days, they can smell it.
Fallin says lawmakers must repair the People's House, and the best way to do it is a bond issue.