Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan said Friday that the tax cut and budget framework agreed to by state leaders is an historic victory for working and middle class families in Oklahoma.
The agreement includes raising the Oklahoma standard deduction to the level of the federal standard deduction over the next four years – a provision that will historically and dramatically change the tax structure in Oklahoma.
“I brought the standard deduction issue to the table when I saw the opportunity to use the Republicans’ blind obsession with cutting taxes for the wealthy to the advantage of those who have for too long carried too much of the tax load in our state,” Morgan said.
“Taking advantage of this unique opportunity to historically change the tax structure in our state will mean that 45,000 households in Oklahomans will never again have to pay state income tax.
“Thousands of middle class families will no longer be disproportionately responsible for funding essential services like education, health care and public safety.”
Morgan said Republicans’ obsession with cutting the top tax rate to benefit the very wealthy made the GOP willing to give up almost anything in return. The Senate leader credited the unrelenting resolve of his Democratic colleagues in both the House and Senate for making the budget deal possible.
“It’s hard not to make a deal with a guy who gives you everything you asked for,” Morgan said. “What’s most unfortunate is that it took so long to get this done. We could have had a deal weeks ago if Republicans had just been willing then to do the right thing for Oklahoma,” Morgan said.
Despite the GOP foot-dragging, the Senate leader said Democrats in both the Senate and House never lost their resolve.
“By refusing to throw the people of Oklahoma under the bus, Democrats in the Legislature have taken advantage of Republicans’ insatiable desire cut the taxes of the privileged few to win a tremendous victory for middle class families in our state,” Morgan said.
The Senate leader said that by not buckling under the pressure to accept a compromise proposal offered in the final days of the regular session Democrats have gained:
An additional salary boost of $600 for every teacher in Oklahoma (a total average raise of $3,000 a year);
A 50-cent per hour raise for school support personnel;
Another $40 million in funding for higher education to forestall large tuition increases at state colleges and universities – especially at regional and two-year institutions (a funding increase of $130 million);
A 5-percent pay raise for Oklahoma’s hard-working state employees;
And targeted tax relief for the Middle Class families who need it most.
“I cannot sugar-coat the fact that I believe that state leaders in the future will face budget challenges when energy prices eventually moderate and Oklahoma is no longer riding the wave of the latest oil boom. It would be unconscionable, however, for those state leaders to attempt to lift themselves out of a budget shortfall by once again dumping an unfair tax burden on working and middle class Oklahomans,” Morgan said.