Wednesday, March 28, 2012

House Committee Approves Heartbeat Informed Consent Act

 The House Public Health Committee voted today to expand Oklahoma informed-consent laws regarding abortion.
            Senate Bill 1274, by state Sen. Dan Newberry and state Rep. Pam Peterson, creates the Heartbeat Informed Consent Act. The legislation would require an abortion provider to provide a woman the opportunity to hear the fetal heartbeat prior to the procedure.
            “Informed consent laws put the state on the side of the patient and ensure a woman is provided as much relevant information as possible before making a life-altering decision,” said Peterson, R-Tulsa. “With changes in technology, a much greater array of medical information is now available to women and we should not allow them to be denied access to that knowledge.”
            Senate Bill 1274 would apply to situations where the unborn baby is eight weeks or older, and the woman would have the choice on whether or not to hear the heartbeat during a standard pre-procedure exam.
The bill’s provisions do not apply when the mother’s life is in danger.
            “This legislation simply gives a woman the opportunity to hear the heartbeat of her unborn child through the use of the fetal heart monitor,” Peterson said. “A pregnant woman who enters an abortion clinic is faced with a decision that will forever change two lives.  It is for that reason the woman needs to be fully informed.
            “Whether you're pro-life or pro-choice you should be for this bill if you do not want women misled.”
            Senate Bill 1274 passed the House Public Health Committee on a bipartisan 10-1 vote. It now proceeds to the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Governor Fallin Statement on President Obama’s Visit to Cushing

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin issued the following statement today regarding President Barack Obama’s visit to Cushing, Oklahoma, where he is scheduled to discuss energy policy:

“I am pleased that President Obama is able to make his first visit to the great state of Oklahoma this week and to personally see the good work going on in Cushing. The TransCanada pipeline to be built there will connect Oklahoma to oil markets on the Gulf Coast, resulting in the creation of more than 1,000 Oklahoma jobs. This project will help to bolster our energy industry and security for years to come.

“I am glad the president supports the construction of the pipeline connecting Cushing to the Gulf. Impeding the progress of something which is so obviously beneficial to both the economy and the energy security of the United States would have been nothing short of irresponsible.

“Unfortunately, President Obama and his administration are practicing exactly this kind of obstructionism on the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have carried oil from the Canadian oil sands and several U.S. markets to Cushing.  As a result, the United States must go without the hundreds of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment that would have otherwise been available to stimulate our economy. Just as importantly, the administration’s decision undermines U.S. energy security and alienates our closest trading partner, Canada.

“I hope that while President Obama is in Oklahoma he takes some time to listen to our citizens, many of whom work for the energy industry which he claims to support. I think they will tell him that – far from supporting the responsible domestic production of American-made energy – his administration has undermined it at every turn. Rather than embracing the truly remarkable technological breakthroughs that have resulted in the discovery of an additional 100-year supply of natural gas, the president and the EPA continue their hostility to basic and time-tested practices like hydraulic fracturing.  The president and his party in Washington continue to support an aggressively anti-energy agenda that will severely hamper the American economy and put the United States at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the world.

“In Oklahoma, we recognize that the energy industry is an important ally in job creation and economic development. We believe that American energy is a resource, not a hazardous waste. My great hope is that some of that attitude will rub off on our president, who has lost his way on energy policy and so many other issues.”

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cockroft Column: Transparency Bills Fail, Tax Cut Proposals Pass

I was disappointed that House lawmakers failed to pass my legislation that would have made open record requests a more straightforward process. House Bill 2379 would have authorized the state’s chief information officer to create and maintain, where the public could make open records requests. The chief information officer would then make the requested documents available on

Chief Information Officer Alex Pettit has been instrumental in increasing the efficiency of state government and I think he could do wonders for open record requests. My bill would have cut through the bureaucracy that often makes open record requests more difficult than they need to be. I think it is disappointing that more lawmakers did not support this legislation. The bill cannot be reconsidered until 2013.

I was also disappointed by the failure of a second transparency measure that would have made the business of the House subject to open record laws. The legislation would have made all e-mails by lawmakers subject to open record requests, except for e-mails between them and constituents. I think it would have been a great sign of our willingness to show we have nothing to hide up here at the Legislature. Hopefully, lawmakers will be more open to this legislation in future sessions.

On the positive, we passed income tax cut proposals, one of which would eventually phase out the income tax. These bills are not in the final form, but their passage keeps the legislation alive for the remainder of the legislative session while we hammer out the details.

If you have questions or need information, please contact my office at or (405) 557-7349. Rep. Cockroft is on Facebook and on Twitter, votecockroft27.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cockroft's Income Tax Elimination Gains House Support

State Rep. Josh Cockroft was among those supporting a major tax cut for working families today.
            House Bill 3038, authored by Cockroft and 30 other House lawmakers, would phase out Oklahoma’s personal income tax over 10 years.
            “We have the opportunity to attract more businesses to Oklahoma and grow the businesses that are already here by reducing the tax burden on job-creators,” said Cockroft, R-Tecumseh. “This bill would also help working families out by allowing them to keep more of their hard-earned money.”
            Under House Bill 3038, the state’s top income tax rate would be cut from 5.25 percent to 2.5 percent.  After that, there would be annual reductions of .25 until the income tax is completely phased out in 2022.
            House Bill 3038 would repeal Oklahoma’s progressive personal income tax without necessitating increases in other tax rates or cuts in funding to core government services.
            Were Oklahoma to eliminate its personal income tax without raising or expanding any other tax rates, the state would have the lowest overall tax burden in the continental United States.
            “More than $800 million in non-core spending cuts have already been identified that could be eliminated to offset the reduction in revenue achieved by the tax cut,” Cockroft said. “The end result of this legislation would be a leaner government that focuses on true core services and an increase in take-home pay for all Oklahomans.”
            House Bill 3038 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 58-35 vote today. It now proceeds to the state Senate.

Derby Bill Passes Oklahoma House Legislation Would Target Criminals, Protect Law-Abiding Consumers

State Rep. David Derby’s House Bill 2941 has passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a vote of 82-5.
The legislation tackles methamphetamine production in Oklahoma by targeting meth criminals while protecting law-abiding consumers’ access to safe and effective medicines containing pseudoephedrine (PSE) such as Advil Cold & Sinus and Mucinex D.
            “The Oklahoma House took an important step that will allow our pharmacists and law enforcement officials to gain the upper hand in the fight against meth production,” said Derby, R-Owasso. “Meth is a horrendous drug that takes lives and ruins families, and I’m proud that we have found a way to address our meth problem in a manner that respects the basic rights of law-abiding Oklahomans.
            “Our bill—which now heads to the Senate—enhances Oklahoma’s real-time electronic blocking system and ensure it is online with the 19 other states that use real-time, stop-sale technology to block unlawful PSE sales,” Derby continued. “This technology will empower pharmacists by enabling them to deny illegal purchases right at the sales counter.
            “This legislation will also provide law enforcement with valuable criminal data up to the second.  Our bills also strengthen Oklahoma’s meth offender registry and reduce the PSE purchasing limit from 9 grams to 7.2 grams per month and virtually cuts in half the annual limit from 108 grams to 60 grams.
            “House passage of HB 2941 is a victory in the battle against meth and a victory for responsible Oklahoma workers and families.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

Governor Fallin Signs Supplemental Funding Bill

 Governor Mary Fallin today signed into law Senate Bill 1959, which provides $92.5 million in emergency supplemental funding for needs in education, public safety, natural disaster relief, and at the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. The governor released the following statement:

“Today’s supplemental funding measures will help to ensure the state of Oklahoma is keeping its commitment to our teachers, protecting our citizens by putting more troopers on our state highways,  and providing necessary assistance to communities hard-hit by natural disasters. It also provides necessary personnel and equipment upgrades at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, helping to put that agency back on a path to accreditation.

“All of these funding measures are both urgent and necessary. I applaud the Legislature for sending this supplemental bill to my desk quickly, and I am happy to be able to sign it into law.”

SB 1959, authored by Sen. Clark Jolley and Rep. Earl Sears, includes emergency funding provisions for natural disaster assistance to local communities, counties and other qualified entities ($34.1 million); insurance benefits for teachers and support staff ($37.6 million); a trooper academy for the Department of Public Safety ($5 million); personnel and equipment for the State Medical Examiner’s Office ($1 million); and funding for teacher National Board Certification bonuses ($14.8 million).

Lawmakers outline $853 million in unnecessary Oklahoma government spending

Over $853 million in unnecessary state government spending of taxpayer dollars was outlined today by a group of lawmakers who want to use the savings to make Oklahoma a no-income-tax state.
            The group is advancing a proposal to phase out Oklahoma’s personal income tax over 10 years.
            “We believe Oklahoma should be the state where people keep more of the fruits of their labor than anywhere else,” said state Rep. Leslie Osborn, R-Mustang. “This will make us a magnet for job creators and set us on a path of vibrant economic growth and long-term prosperity.”
            The group’s proposal aims to achieve full phase-out of the tax without raising other tax rates, negatively affecting core state government services, or harming retirees, senior citizens or veterans.
            To do so, the lawmakers say their proposal requires a total of $525 million in total reductions in state government outlays that must be found over a two-year period. Because the savings can be found over two years instead of just one, annual savings found for Fiscal Year 2013 could also be counted again in Fiscal Year 2014 toward the total savings necessary.
            In offering a list of $853 million in total savings options over the next two budget years, the lawmakers maintain there is plenty of room to reduce wasteful, unnecessary state spending while avoiding cutting core services, and still put Oklahoma on track to become the tenth state in the nation without a personal income tax.
            “We can make these reductions and not touch one dollar of actual core spending in education, transportation, public safety, or the safety net for the truly needy,” said state Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow. “In return, we can repeal our state’s income tax in a responsible amount of time and see an influx of new jobs and investment in Oklahoma at levels we’ve not seen before.”
            The list of $853 million over two years includes savings from three areas: wasteful, inefficient or unnecessary state expenditures; corporate tax credits that have not exhibited a high enough return on taxpayer investment; and modernization, consolidation and technology reforms within state government bureaucracy that are still in the process of being implemented.
            “Some of our colleagues may feel uneasy about eliminating taxpayer subsidies for things like golf courses or rodeos that may be in their home district,” said state Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh. “Or they may think it’s inconvenient to make state agencies operate efficiently. But our constituents sent us to the Capitol to use common sense and fix what needs fixing. And they don’t deserve for their hard-earned tax dollars to be spent wastefully.”
            Cockroft said the goal in releasing the list was to compile credible savings ideas from several sources. Working from this list, the lawmakers hope to encourage their colleagues to build a consensus around which areas of nonessential state spending could be trimmed over the next two years.
            One source lawmakers credited was the work in recent months by state Rep. David Dank, chair of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Revenue & Taxation, and state Sen. Mike Mazzei, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, to bring attention to ineffective corporate tax credits.
            Another acknowledged source was a recently released list of state budget reduction ideas from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), a free-market think tank.
            State Rep. Charles Ortega said he and his colleagues, when examining the savings recommendations from these and other sources, adopted some and left others for another day.
            “The goal here is to put together good ideas from several different places and start reaching a consensus on what’s possible, both politically and practically, in order to find enough savings to phase out our income tax,” said Ortega, R-Altus. “We have great respect for the ideas put forward in recent weeks and months by Chairman Dank, Chairman Mazzei, groups like OCPA and others. Some of these ideas have legs right now, and some may not. We believe repealing Oklahoma’s income tax is essential for our state, so we’re asking our colleagues to work with us to determine where we can reduce unnecessary taxpayer expenditures in order to make it happen.”

Speaker comments on House passage of TANF drug testing bill

House Speaker Kris Steele today issued the following statement on House Bill 2388, which passed the House, 82-6:

“The bill is one of many small steps Oklahoma can take to break the grip that addiction has on far too many Oklahomans. If an applicant battles addiction, this action could serve as a wakeup call to get help, get clean and get their life turned around. It would be my preference that denied applicants are directed to substance abuse treatment if they test positive for drugs. There are several substance abuse initiatives in place statewide that can help these individuals overcome addiction.” – House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee

HB 2388, by Rep. Guy Liebmann, R-Oklahoma City, would require applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to submit to, and pay for, a drug test. Individuals who test positive for drugs would be ineligible for benefits for one year unless they successfully complete a substance abuse program within six months.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

House Supports Veteran Residential Care

Members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives voted today to provide elderly Oklahoma veterans a greater range of health-care choices.
            House Bill 2207, by state Rep. John Bennett, adds medical foster homes approved by the federal Veteran’s Administration to the definition of a “residential care home” and exempts them from certain state requirements.
            “Residential home care allows a veteran to remain in his home and preserve some level of independence,” said Bennett, a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I am proud that this measure received such overwhelming support.”
            A medical foster home is a non-institutional alternative to a nursing home where a veteran is matched with a caregiver in the local community.  Care is provided in the caregiver’s home to 24 hours a day. Medical foster homes are inspected and approved by the federal Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
            House Bill 2207 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on an 88-0 vote. It now proceeds to the state Senate.
            “Our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much on our behalf,” Bennett said. “They deserve to be taken care of as they reach their golden years in a way that preserves their dignity.”

Cockroft Challenges Resolve of House Republican Caucus

Below is a letter that I sent to the House Republican Caucus yesterday voicing my concerns over our resolve and mission. I believe we must be here for the right reason! If not, then we are failing in our mission. Your feedback is welcome!


    I wanted to write out a few thoughts in result to our caucus discussions this afternoon on the income tax issue…

    Let me begin by saying that I respect and appreciate each one of you. Having these past 18 months to work with each of you and develop positive relationships has been an incredible experience. I also appreciate the help that so many of you have given me in my first year and a half as a legislator. I look forward to serving with you all for the duration of this year.

    There are a couple things however that have caused me great concern dealing with the mindset of our “conservative” caucus.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors.”

    There have been several instances in the past couple of weeks in our caucus meetings that the statement has been made about the political will of the members due to an election year. I personally take great offense at these kinds of statements. I ask each of you the question, “When did it become our job as politicians to worry about securing future elections for ourselves?” I believe that if we are each truly standing upon our principles and the conservative platform of the Republican Party, then we shouldn’t be worried about our next step, because we know that we stand upon the right things. Our founding Fathers never intended government to be set up for the benefit of government, rather for the good of the people.

    Members, I didn’t stand on the door steps of thousands of homes in 110 degree heat because it was easy. I didn’t do it because it was popular or might propel me into a particular status. It was based on conviction and a desire to serve and change our State for the betterment of our future. I was twenty-one years old when I ran for this seat. If you believe that this was the easy or the safe path, then you are sadly mistaken. I have had numerous people saying it couldn’t be done and was a waste of my time and money. It was the hardest point in my life that I have ever been through. If I had crumbled under all that pressure, I wouldn’t be here today. Many people still ask why I continued to press on and go against all odds. I tell them it’s because I know I was doing the right thing to do.

    This job is hard. This is a thankless job. I know we have pressures from every angle on this and other issues. However, I simply ask that you think about what you stand upon. Do you stand upon the Republican platform which is for lower taxes and smaller government, or are you so easily swayed by pressure and negative threats? Members, it wasn’t until early November of this last year (four months ago) that I had decided to run for re-election. I didn’t want to plan my next step in politics until I knew that I was here for the right reason. I believe that anyone who plans their political future can be easily compromised and swayed, so as to stay in office for another term. That’s not what government’s job is. Our job is to do what is right, no matter what, and let the people of our district decide if they want us there in the future. The question is this: “Are we here for the right reason?”   

    I humbly submit to you that if we are truly going to do what is right for our State and move us forward, we must stand together and stare down the opponent in the face of adversity. It is time to make a statement for all the rest of the Nation to hear. I want Oklahoma’s State government to be known as a lean, efficient, and accountable government. If we each do what we know is right and block everything else around us out, then that goal is not far off base.

    Once again, I submit this to you with a humble and respectful attitude, and thank you for your consideration.

God bless, 

Josh Cockroft
Oklahoma State Representative, District 27
2300 N. Lincoln BLVD - Room 315
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
Office: (405) 557-7349 - EXT. 349

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

House Approves Online Database of State Debt

Under legislation approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, Oklahomans could go to one online site to learn about the state’s debt and financial obligations
            House Bill 2857, by state Rep. Elise Hall, authorizes the creation of, where information would be provided on all obligation and revenue bonds, debt, bonds issued by enterprise funds and component units of state government and higher-education master lease agreements.
            “Lawmakers and constituents alike have a tough time assembling all the information needed to get a clear picture of the state’s finances,” said Hall (R-Oklahoma City). “ will give everyone one place where the state’s financial data is easily accessible.”
            Although much information on state obligations is already online, Hall noted that it is not provided in a concise, user-friendly format that can be easily searched.
            “For some information, a citizen could go through a 90-page report and try to do some back-of-the-envelope math to obtain exact figures on state debt, but that requires a substantial investment of time,” Hall said. “Under House Bill 2857, that information would be immediately available and easily accessible.”
   would also provide the amount paid on an annual basis to retire the debt, the amount attributable to interest and fees on an annual basis and the complete debt repayment schedule. Historical data would also be available, as would information allowing a comparison of Oklahoma debt and obligations with those of the other 49 states.
            House Bill 2857 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 69-21 vote today and now proceeds to the Senate for consideration.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

House Votes to Fund Bridge Repair, Increase Safety

State lawmakers voted today to dramatically reduce the backlog of bridges needing repair or replacement in Oklahoma.
            “Although we have made significant progress addressing transportation needs in recent years, there is still much work to be done,” said state Rep. T.W. Shannon, a Lawton Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “This legislation ramps up those efforts and keeps state resources focused on a true core function of government: transportation infrastructure. As we increase road funding, the impact will compound yearly and allow for a rapid reduction in the number of deficient or obsolete bridges in Oklahoma.”
            House Bill 2248, by Shannon, would increase road funding in the coming fiscal year. Current law calls for an annual increase of $37.5 million in road funding. Shannon’s bill would hike that amount to $56.7 million, directing an additional $19.2 million to the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety Fund.
            The bill directs that the fund continue receiving an additional $56.7 million each year until the total increase equals $550 million.
            House Bill 2249, by Shannon, would direct 16 percent of vehicle licensing fees and penalties to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges Fund, and increases that amount to 20 percent by 2013.
            The CIRB program is currently funded with 15 percent of the motor vehicle taxes and fees. House Bill 2249 would increase the estimated annual funding for the CIRB program from approximately $80 million to more than $105 million.
            Currently, 706 of nearly 6,800 bridges on the state highway system are identified as structurally deficient. Of the 706 bridges, 413 are currently scheduled to be replaced in the next seven years, but 293 remain unfunded. Many of those bridges will be replaced if Shannon’s legislation becomes law.
            “By improving and replacing dilapidated bridges on Oklahoma roads, we can increase public safety and generate positive economic benefit for all of Oklahoma by ensuring we have modern transportation infrastructure in place throughout the state,” Shannon said. “This legislation will also benefit future generations of Oklahomans by tackling this crucial need today instead of passing the buck to our children.”
            The two bills are part of Gov. Mary Fallin’s announced transportation agenda for the 2012 session.
House Bill 2248 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on an 86-2 vote today.
House Bill 2249 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on an 89-1 vote.
Both bills now proceed to the state Senate.

Lawmakers Vote to Increase Women’s Safety

Physicians could face a felony if they prescribe a pill known as RU-486 or milfepristone for the inducement of an abortion without being physically present under a bill approved today by House lawmakers.
            House Bill 2381 is needed because current law would allow physicians to give an exam and prescribe the pill over the Internet, according to the bill’s author, state Rep. Josh Cockroft.
            “Last year, the Legislature required physicians to provide an examination and set up a follow-up appointment before prescribing RU-486 for the inducement of an abortion,” said Cockroft (R-Tecumseh). “Since then, I learned that physicians could still prescribe this pill without even being physically present. This legislation just corrects that loophole to make sure this pill is properly prescribed.”
            State Rep. Sean Roberts, a co-author, said a proper examination is needed to check for ectopic pregnancies and other contraindications which would make the abortion pill potentially dangerous.
            “This is not like taking medicine for a cold,” said Roberts (R-Hominy). “There are serious complications such as hypotension leading to cardiac problems or hemorrhaging that could arise. A physician needs to be present to ensure this particular pill is the right choice for the patient. Although I do not support abortions, I am also concerned about women’s safety and that’s what this bill does, it helps assure their safety.”
            Felonies are punishable by a fine of $1,000 or up to two years incarceration in the Department of Corrections. The legislation would also make physicians liable for damages.
            “Prescription of this particular abortion pill without the physician being present is simply unsafe,” said Cockroft. “My legislation makes it a felony to endanger a woman in this way. The legislation is also written so it is clear that the patient is not the guilty party. As a pro-life lawmaker, I do not support abortion, but I also do not believe we should allow unethical individuals to carelessly put women’s lives in danger.”
             House Bill 2381 now proceeds to the Senate for consideration.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Open Government Measures Advance

 Oklahoma taxpayers may soon have the right to file open records requests online, gain the ability to track the status of requests for vital records, have better purview of legislative meetings, and realize hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings through state government reorganization and consolidation.
            This and more would take place through the implementation of a series of aggressive government modernization initiatives that were approved prior to last week’s committee deadline and now proceed to the full house.
“Government efficiency and transparency should be the rule rather than the exception. An efficient, transparent government means more effective services for the public, more money back in the hands of taxpayers and more access to their government for all citizens,” said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee
“This year a team of legislators have stepped up and sponsored a series of transparency and cost cutting initiatives. If approved these bills will cut costs to the taxpayers while also providing them with new tools to hold government accountable,” said state Rep. Jason Murphey, who chairs the Government Modernization committee.
            The 2012 government modernization initiatives include among others the following bills.
            House Bill 3053, by Speaker Steele and state Sen. Kim David, follows up on Speaker’s Steele’s successful government agency consolidation bill and consolidates additional state agencies. A report released by the Office of State Finance demonstrates that the taxpayers will save $6 million each year from the consolidation. This amount is far in excess of the savings initially mandated by last year’s bill.
            House Bill 2379, by state Rep. Josh Cockroft, will establish an online open records request portal to empower taxpayers with quick access to government documents.
            House Bill 2991, by state Rep. Mike Ritze, will streamline and cut the cost of delivering vital records such as birth certificates through the Department of Health website.
            House Joint Resolution 1075, by Murphey and state Sen. Greg Treat, will allow the state auditor to conduct performance audits of state agencies and programs.
            House Bill 2646, by state Rep. David Brumbaugh, significantly expands the House’s recent purchasing system reforms, which have saved $22 million over the past two years.
            House Bill 2940, by state Rep. David Derby, would implement provisions of a recently concluded consultant’s report showing millions of dollars could be saved from the consolidation of the state-owned IT fiber networks including the OneNet fiber network.
            House Bill 2771, by state Rep. Aaron Stiles, builds on the recently created business one-stop, which is designed to allow Oklahoma small business owners to receive their licenses and permits online instead of having to wait in line at a state bureaucracy.
            House Bill 2482, by state. Rep. Lewis Moore, would enable the state to better manage the issuance of worker’s comp insurance.
            House Bill 1085, by Murphey and state Sen. David Holt, would apply open meeting and open records laws to the Legislature. The Oklahoma Legislature is one of the last in the nation to maintain an exemption from these laws.
House Bill 2587, by state Rep. Elise Hall, would allow taxpayers to see the debt incurred by state officials. Her bill creates an online one-stop where the amount of the state’s debt can be easily visualized.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

10-year income tax phase-out plan receives committee approval

Proposal now sponsored by nearly one-third of the state House

A proposal to phase out Oklahoma’s personal income tax over 10 years has cleared another important hurdle and continues to gain momentum.
            House Bill 3038, which is still a work in progress, was approved Wednesday in a vote of the state House Appropriations & Budget Committee.
            The measure also gained additional support, as it was announced that eight more members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives have signed on as co-authors of the bill.
            That amounts to HB 3038 having 31 total authors in the state House — nearly one-third of that legislative body. The coalition includes lawmakers from all four quadrants of the state, from rural, urban and suburban areas.
            “It’s very encouraging that so many of our colleagues in the Legislature are eager to support the effort to dramatically enhance Oklahoma’s appeal to job creators and to all citizens by allowing them to keep more of the fruits of their labor,” said Rep. Leslie Osborn, a member of the coalition supporting HB 3038.
            “What brings us together is we all want to put Oklahoma on a path to long-term economic prosperity by incentivizing widespread private-sector expansion across our state, across industries. We are confident this will lead to robust job growth for current and future generations of Oklahomans.”
            HB 3038 would repeal Oklahoma’s progressive personal income tax without necessitating increases in other tax rates or cuts in funding to core government services.
            Were Oklahoma to eliminate its personal income tax without raising or expanding any other tax rates, the state would have the lowest overall tax burden in the continental United States.
            “When you consider the many other positive reforms Oklahoma has made in recent years, like becoming a Right-to-Work state and phasing out our death tax, and then add in one of the lowest tax burdens in America, it’s fair to say we would have one of the top business climates of any state,” said Rep. Tom Newell, another author of the legislation.
            HB 3038 would phase out the state personal income tax through a process of simplifying the tax code, making modest reductions in wasteful, inefficient and non-essential state spending at the outset of the phase-out process, and utilizing growth revenue from other sources as Oklahoma’s private sector grows in response to the state’s dramatically improved tax climate.

The 31 House authors of HB 3038 are, in alphabetical order:

Rep. Don Armes, Faxon
Rep. Gus Blackwell, Goodwell
Rep. David Brumbaugh, Broken Arrow
Rep. Josh Cockroft, Tecumseh
Rep. Marian Cooksey, Edmond
Rep. Lee Denney, Cushing
Rep. David Derby, Owasso
Rep. George Faught, Muskogee
Rep. Randy Grau, Edmond
Rep. Elise Hall, Oklahoma City
Rep. Corey Holland, Marlow
Rep. Mike Jackson, Enid
Rep. Dennis Johnson, Duncan
Rep. Sally Kern, Oklahoma City
Rep. Dan Kirby, Tulsa
Rep. Guy Liebmann, Oklahoma City
Rep. Mark McCullough, Sapulpa
Rep. Randy McDaniel, Oklahoma City
Rep. Lewis Moore, Arcadia
Rep. Glen Mulready, Tulsa
Rep. Jason Murphey, Guthrie
Rep. Tom Newell, Seminole
Rep. Charles Ortega, Altus
Rep. Leslie Osborn, Mustang
Rep. Mike Reynolds, Oklahoma City
Rep. Phil Richardson, Minco
Rep. Mike Sanders, Kingfisher
Rep. Sue Tibbs, Tulsa
Rep. Steve Vaughan, Ponca City
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, Moore
Rep. Harold Wright, Weatherford