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General Revenue Fund collections increase

OKLAHOMA CITY – General Revenue Fund collections in February totaled $385.2 million, which was $64 million, or 19.9 percent, more than the monthly estimate.

Collections for February were $91 million, or 30.9 percent, more than collections in February 2018, according to a report from the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.

Total collections over the first eight months of the fiscal year were $267.8 million, or 6.8 percent, more than the estimate and $631.6 million, or 17.7 percent, more than prior year collections.

“I’m pleased to see strong returns in February, which is historically the weakest month of the fiscal year for collections,” said Office of Management and Enterprise Services Director John Budd. “But I would caution putting too much emphasis on the monthly drivers and instead look to the year-to-date numbers as a more accurate picture of the state’s fiscal outlook.”

Gross production tax collections for the month totaled $82.1 million, which was $40.1 million, or 95.5 percent, above the estimate and $54 million, or 191.8 percent, above the prior year. Sales tax collections of $168.9 million were $4.3 million, or 2.5 percent, below the estimate and $4.5 million, or 2.7 percent, above the prior year. Corporate income tax collections of $1.7 million were $1.1 million, or 192.6 percent, above the estimate.

“Obviously, we have a few tax categories that are way above the monthly estimates,” Budd said. “In regard to income tax collections, fluctuation is mostly due to volatility from historical patterns, which holds the estimates to lower numbers. February estimates are always much lower and more sensitive to fluctuating refunds or rebates, which impacted both personal and corporate collections this month.”

–Staff report


House passes bill to cut sales taxes on vehicle trade-ins

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed legislation that would help Oklahomans keep more of their dollars in their pockets by allowing them credit for a vehicle trade-in.

House Bill 2355 would grant consumers credit for vehicle trade-ins by taxing them at the net price of the vehicle they’re purchasing rather than the full price. State Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid, is the bill’s author.

Caldwell said the bill is a reaction to legislation filed in 2017 to remove the sales tax exemption for vehicles.

“Given our state’s budget crisis at that time, the Legislature voted to do away with the exemption to bring in more money and help balance our checkbook,” Caldwell said. “Now our economy has improved, and we even have a budget surplus this year. I’m glad this legislation returns the tax exemptions we had in place several years ago, and I’m grateful my colleagues in the House voted overwhelmingly for this bill.”

HB 2355 would also exempt trucks, truck trailers and semitrailers from sales and excise tax. Caldwell said this exemption would attract more outside businesses to Oklahoma and bring in more money to the state without increasing taxes on everyday Oklahomans.

The bill passed the House 94-0 and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

–Staff report


House passes criminal justice reform measure

OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation that attempts to improve Oklahoma’s recidivism rate passed on the House floor Tuesday with a bipartisan vote of 85 to 6.

House Bill 2134, authored by state Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, prohibits disqualification from pursuing, practicing or engaging in an occupation for which a license is required based on a prior conviction unless that conviction is directly related to the occupation.

By removing barriers to licensure, this bill reduces Oklahoma’s recidivism rate by helping individuals who have committed non-violent offenses get back into the workforce.

“Oklahomans have been consistent with their call for criminal justice reform,” Munson said. “This bill will help many Oklahomans find purpose and fulfillment through employment. By opening the door to these opportunities, we are providing a path to success for Oklahomans who were previously incarcerated.

–Staff report


House passes $1,000 tax credit for teachers

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously passed a measure that would provide Oklahoma school teachers some financial relief when they spend money out of pocket for their classrooms.

House Bill 2502, by House Speaker Charles McCall, would provide a $1,000 tax credit that teachers can claim for classroom expenditures and fees associated with the teacher certification process. In households with two teachers, both could claim the tax credit. The credit could be claimed for the tax year beginning January 1, 2020.

HB 2502 passed out of the House by a vote of 96-0 and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

–Staff report


House passes COLA bill for state retirees

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a bill that would grant an increase in retirement benefits to retirees of Oklahoma’s six retirement systems.

House Bill 2304, authored by state Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, would give a permanent 4 percent cost-of-living adjustment to all retirees of the Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System, Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System, Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges, Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System and Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System. The increase would take place Jan. 1, 2020.

Frix said the issue was brought to his attention in 2016 by a constituent who is a retired teacher and whose health insurance cost more than her retirement check.

HB 2304 passed the House with a 98-3 vote and now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The bill also amends the Oklahoma Pension Legislation Actuarial Analysis Act to include a safe harbor clause that allows the bill to be treated as a nonfiscal retirement bill in the legislative process.

–Staff report


Students plan rally on climate change inaction

OKLAHOMA CITY – Dozens of junior high, high school, and college students are planning to rally at the state Capitol at 5 p.m. Friday to bring attention to climate change

The rally is a part of the National Youth Climate Strike to demand legislation to end climate change and push for the Green New Deal.

The Oklahoma Youth Climate Strike is being supported by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Sierra Club.

–Staff report


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