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February 4, 2013

Tax cuts, workers’ comp tops Okla. GOP agenda

OKLAHOMA CITY — Republicans enjoying a tighter grip on the Oklahoma Legislature say they hope to cut taxes, overhaul the workers’ compensation system and increase school funding when the 2013 session opens Monday. Doing so, they say, will improve the state’s business climate.

The GOP holds a 72-29 majority in the House and a 32-16 edge in the Senate — both the largest Republican majorities ever — and the governor is also a Republican.

“Our policies have been working,” Gov. Mary Fallin said. “Our economy is thriving, and I do think it is in large part because of the legislation we’ve passed that is more business-friendly, more job-friendly.

“We’re going to continue to put our foot on the gas pedal to move Oklahoma to an even stronger, more prosperous time.”

Fallin will deliver her State of the State speech Monday afternoon and intends to highlight the state’s job growth as it emerges from a recent recession — and ask for more pro-business changes.

Last year, she failed in her bold move to slash the state’s income tax rate and gut various exemptions and deductions. She intends to make a simpler request Monday.

“We’re looking at trying to get a tax cut through this year, but one that we can afford and one that is responsible,” Fallin said.

New House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, both said they could support a responsible income tax cut. Shannon said Oklahoma’s economy has grown and income tax collections have climbed since a one-quarter of 1 percent cut to the state’s top rate took effect last year.

“I think (tax cuts) grow the economy and wind up producing more revenue for the state,” Shannon said. “I think you can go too far, too quickly. You can go too deep, too quickly. I think we can be thoughtful about it like we have in the past.”

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