Voters may soon get to decide whether they would like to replace Oklahoma's state tax code with a system that is even better than the state of Texas, according to the leader of the Oklahoma State Senate.
Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor said he decided to refine the focus of his "Texas Plan" - an initiative to replace the Oklahoma tax system with the Texas tax code - after receiving a letter from university researchers on Monday. They raised concerns about the logistics of replacing the entire state tax code with a new system and the amount of time it would take to accomplish such a task.
"The Texas Plan has become the Texas Plan Plus. We're going to craft our own program, taking the best that Texas has to offer and giving voters an opportunity to decide whether they want that system in Oklahoma. No income taxes and no sales taxes on groceries will make an attractive package, not just to citizens here, but to those in the states around us," said Senator Taylor.
"There was already a good deal of momentum building behind the Texas Plan. I think the latest change will give it another boost."
Senator Taylor has prepared a draft letter that asks the project teams at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to concentrate on five key goals:
"By addressing those areas, we're confident that we can draft a tax code that is not only better than our current system in Oklahoma, but better than what they have in Texas. What we want is the best of the best," said Senator Taylor.
The Senate leader said he was in the process of discussing the new program with Governor Keating and House Speaker Larry Adair when Senate Minority leader Jim Dunlap issued a press release Wednesday, criticizing the Texas Plan and calling for only a small reduction in the state income tax. Given the fact that Governor Keating has been supportive of the Texas Plan effort, Senator Taylor said Dunlap's statements surprised him.
"Obviously, Senator Dunlap is out of the loop. It's a shame that he doesn't want to be part of a bipartisan team that is working toward what would unquestionably be the most significant tax reform package in state history. In a small-minded fashion, he continues to want to nibble around the edges of our tax system, instead of making the bold changes that are necessary to have a real impact on economic development," said Senator Taylor.
Senator Taylor remains optimistic that university researchers can complete their work on the Texas Plan Plus in time for lawmakers to consider the proposal this session. He noted that researchers had previously been asked to examine the tax codes of Texas, Florida, Nevada and Washington, but by refining the project's focus, the task should be easier to complete.
If for any reason the research work cannot be completed in time for consideration this session, the Senate leader said he will ask that a one-day special session be held later this year to consider and pass the program. He remains hopeful that the tax reform measure could be placed on a state ballot as early as this fall.
"By refining the focus of the plan, it increases the likelihood that we can bring this proposal to state lawmakers before the end of May. A fall election is still my goal. The faster that we can get this before the voters, the better," said Senator Taylor.