OKLAHOMA CITY —
Gov. Mary Fallin renewed her call for a cut in the state’s income tax rate and asked legislators to approve a bond issue to help repair the state Capitol Monday during her fourth State of the State speech.
The Oklahoma Legislature convened at noon for the start of the 2014 legislative session, and statewide elected officials, members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and leaders some of the state’s Native American tribes gathered in the House chamber for Fallin’s annual address.
“I believe responsibly lowering the income tax is the right thing to do,” Fallin said in prepared remarks. “This is the people’s money; it should stay with the people.”
Fallin called for a reduction in the state’s top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent. A similar cut, scheduled to take effect in 2015, was approved by the Legislature and signed by Fallin last year, but rejected by the Oklahoma Supreme Court because it contained more than one subject.
The tax-cut bill also directed $120 million to help pay for major repairs to the nearly 100-year-old building, but Fallin reiterated her position on Monday that a bond issue is the best way to pay for those improvements.
“Raw sewage is literally leaking into the Capitol basement,” Fallin said in her remarks. “We must begin repairing the people’s House now. The best, most realistic way to accomplish this is through a bond issue.”
Fallin and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman have both supported the idea of a bond issue to pay for Capitol repairs, but House Speaker T.W. Shannon says the majority of his caucus opposes any additional state debt. Shannon has pushed for a pay-as-you-go approach to infrastructure improvements.
Lawmakers are currently projected to have about $6.96 billion in revenue to appropriate to state agencies and programs this year, which is about $170 million less than they spent last year. Fallin prepared her executive budget based on this estimate, and her budget calls for 5 percent reductions in spending for several state agencies.
“The cuts we’ve proposed this year amount to 5 percent or less of agency budgets, and in total amount to about 1 percent of state spending,” Fallin said. “Any business worth its salt can find 5 percent costs savings without crippling the services it provides.”
Lawmakers must adjourn by May 30.