Senator Steve Russell has filed a trio of bills to help ease the burden of some of Oklahoma’s most deserving citizens including soldiers, widows and adoptive families.
“My bills deal with issues that promote good government rather than complicate the lives of Oklahomans,” said Russell. “As both a 21 year veteran of the U.S. Army and an adoptive father, I’m all too aware of the hardships faced by our military families, those trying to adopt children, and those trying to survive after loss.”
Two of the Oklahoma City Republican’s bills deal with tax relief. SB 881 would exempt military personnel from paying state income taxes on their military pay.
“It’s not a question of how the state will survive the impact of this very small loss in revenue, but rather how military families survive their multiple moves, deployments and hardships while defending our freedom.
We often say that nothing is too good for our troops in Oklahoma, but nothing is often what they get.”
Oklahoma has the second highest military recruitment in the nation per capita, but Russell points out that a great many service men and women change their citizenship at the first opportunity because of the state’s tax rates.
“Surely we can do better than states like Nevada, Illinois and New York,” challenged Russell.
There are currently 16 states that exempt their military from paying income taxes.
“I know I’m going to face opposition given that it’s going to be a tight budget year, but from what I’ve seen so far, we waste far more than the impact of this relief for our troops. We can cut the waste and offer hope to our troops so that they can remain Oklahomans rather than switch their citizenship to other states, which they often do.”
Russell’s SB 540 would provide an income tax exemption for Oklahoma widows or widowers whose incomes are at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
“If we cannot ease the burden of the widow and the orphan, then it seems to me we’ve lost our way as lawmakers.”
Russell also wants to help Oklahoma’s adoptive parents by updating the state’s adoption laws to make adoption an easier and more efficient process. SB 1029 calls for a uniform standard for adoptions within the state.
“Currently, adoption isn’t uniformly regulated in the state. Parents have three options when adopting and that’s through the state, a private organization or through an attorney. The problem is that each of these uses different rules and standards, which causes confusion and problems for many families,” said Russell. “Adoption is a wonderful gift for both the adoptive family and the child. Unfortunately, some have abused the system while capitalizing on the plight of families involved in the adoption process. I want to stop that.”
The freshman lawmaker is hopeful he can carry these bills through to the Governor’s desk.
“I’ve faced some pretty tough challenges in my life and I’m hopeful I can fight these bills through with people’s help,” offered the combat veteran, perhaps best known as the commander of a unit involved with the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein.