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Oklahoma Senate passes bill eliminating state sales tax on food

© iStock - Sergei Gnatiuk
Kim Jarrett

(The Center Square) - The Oklahoma Senate passed House Bill 1955 last week, eliminating the state's sales tax on groceries.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat presented the measure a day after saying it would be the only tax cut the Senate would consider during this legislative session as the state could not afford more cuts. The bill returns $411 million to the taxpayers. 

"I believe we are in an extremely good position to sustain this in the long term," Treat said. "Will this cause us to have mainly flat budgets? I believe that to be largely true."

PROMO 64J1 Map - Oklahoma State Map - iStock - klenger

© iStock - klenger

Sen. Roger Thompson, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, was the only Republican to vote against the bill. He said during the floor debate that Oklahoma has worked hard to become financially stable but still has issues. Those include bad county roads and an inability to pay nursing homes high enough rider rates to keep staff, Thompson said.

"So with the greatest respect that I have for the author of this bill and his belief in this bill, members, because of our history and because of the needs of this state and because there is a preemptive clause in this state that even prohibits towns that are struggling that they cannot pass a sales tax for a year, I will be a 'no' on this bill," Thompson said.

Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, cast the other 'no' vote.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, called it a "historic day" but said the Senate's delay in passing the bill was costly to taxpayers. The House passed the bill 322 days ago, he said.

"The delay in the vote cost Oklahomans an estimated additional $374 million in taxes, and the lack of an emergency to immediately put the cuts in place will cost our citizens another $200M, but Senate leadership did their best to at least secure passage," McCall said. "The House has sent several tax cuts to the Senate over the last three years only to have them stall and not be heard."

The Senate will not hear a 0.25 percent reduction in the state's income, Treat said previously. Gov. Kevin Stitt supports the income tax cut. The governor has said he will sign any tax cut that crosses his desk and is expected to sign the grocery tax cut.