The Duncan Banner

March 4, 2013

Legislators share state income tax reform concerns

Derrick Miller
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — When it comes to income tax reform, the Oklahoma House of Representatives is hoping to reduce the rates from 5.24 percent to 5.0 percent, or even lower.

Representative Dennis Johnson, Senator Corey Brooks, Sen. Don Barrington and Rep. Joe Dorman met with constituents Friday for a legislative coffee sponsored by the Duncan Chamber of Commerce & Industry on the Cameron University-Duncan campus. During the meeting, the Oklahoma legislators discussed several topics impacting Oklahoma.

Johnson said his personal goal is to get the number down to 4.99 percent. He said being below 5 percent would look better for anyone looking to move to Oklahoma.

“That’s another priority of the House,” Johnson said. “Last year, we had a meltdown in the House and the Senate. We have a general consensus this year. We want to get it down at least 0.25 (percent).”

Brooks and Barrington acknowledged the strain put upon Oklahoma residents by the income tax rate. Brooks said there are plenty of items needing to be addressed through a reform of the system.

Brooks said the Senate hopes to reform the state income tax to such a manner it might even drop from 5.25 percent to 4.75 percent over the course of two years.

“It’s in line with giving people back some of their money, but doing it cleanly,” Brook said.

While Johnson, Brooks and Barrington all spoke in favor of reforming the income tax system, Dorman expressed concerned.

He said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has said there needs to be more spending in some areas, including mental health issues. By cutting income tax, he is concerned this could take away from the money needed to take care of increases elsewhere.

“We’ve got to pay the bills,” Dorman said. “I just don’t see it.”

Dorman has entered his 18th year of being in legislature. He is set to term out in 2014. This makes him the most senior legislator covering Stephens County.

He is followed by Barrington, who has been in office for eight years. Like Dorman, Barrington also expressed some concerns with reforming the state income tax.

“We need to be careful with this,” Barrington said. “We have to be cautious. If we do cut our taxes, we don’t want to dig ourselves a hole.

“I’m not against reducing the state income tax. We just need to be cautious.”

Barrington said something does need to be done about the state income tax, and it’s better to not just sit and wait to see what it will do. He said the state needs to be more proactive when addressing this issue.

He said the income tax is an important funding source for the state, and if reformed, the money would have to be watched closely to make sure the funds can stretch as needed.

“We need to make ends meet,” Barrington said.