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Mazzei Minute: 05/13/24

Tensions are rising at the State Capitol as the annual budget battle brews hotter and hotter. Gov. Kevin Stitt, House and Senate have staked out their top priorities, and the new transparency effort is giving everyone a front row seat to the squabbles.

Senate leader Greg Treat has done a great service to the people of Oklahoma by making the budget process more visible. Government works best with high transparency and accountability. However, This experiment could probably use a few tweaks for greater effectiveness.

Some negotiation of difficult details toward the end of the process do require some private conversations. As long as the result of those conversations are provided with full disclosure to all legislators and the public, with plenty of time to review and study the details, the goal of transparency is still accomplished. Nobody gets much benefit from grandstanding before the cameras in a public “budget summit” from a conference room.

Stitt understandably wants inflation relief for Oklahoma taxpayers by providing tax relief. The Senate is understandably concerned about the sustainability of tax collections after a $450 million cut from eliminating the state’s portion of the grocery tax.

The obvious middle ground would be a one-time tax rebate for low-to-middle income households who are most struggling with the current bout of Biden inflation. Next year, legislators could reassess the latest tax collection estimate for a stable base of revenue and then take on the more important work of true tax reform to become a no-income tax state!

In the meantime, the next budget summit could be a press conference announcing a new budget agreement, explanation of the details and taking questions from the press for historic transparency.


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