MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

February 1, 2014

Five things to know about the 2014 state legislature

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Here are five things to know about the 2014 session of the Oklahoma Legislature, which begins Monday with Gov. Mary Fallin’s delivery of her fourth State of the State address to the Oklahoma people, legislators, statewide elected officials and members of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

Budget

Legislators currently are projected to have about $6.96 billion to spend on state programs in the budget year that begins July 1. That’s $170 million less than lawmakers appropriated last year, and Fallin will present her balanced executive budget to lawmakers on Monday based on this estimate.

A state panel will certify a second estimate later this month that will determine exactly how much will be available to spend, but budget leaders already are warning agency directors to prepare for flat or slightly reduced budgets next year.

House Speaker

Current Republican House Speaker T.W. Shannon has decided to run for the U.S. Senate, which is expected to result in a vacancy of the House’s top post. Current Speaker Pro Tem Mike Jackson of Enid, the No. 2 House leader and a close Shannon ally, is the front runner to be selected speaker by the 72-member Republican caucus, but he is being challenged by GOP Reps. Jeff Hickman of Dacoma and Jason Nelson of Oklahoma City.

Shannon has not indicated when he plans to give up the speakership, so it’s not clear when a caucus vote might be held to replace him, but it’s likely to happen quickly to ensure a smooth transition to the new leader.

Taxes

Two key tax issues the Legislature are expected to tackle this year is a reduction in the state’s personal income tax rate and an expiring tax incentive for certain types of oil and gas drilling.

The incentive, which is costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue, is a reduction in the typical production tax on oil and gas from seven percent to one percent for horizontal drilling that is set to expire next year. A .25 percent reduction in the income tax cut, which was approved by the Legislature and signed by Fallin last year, was rejected by the courts as unconstitutional because it was included in a bill with more than one subject. The tax cut, which costs about $120 million when fully implemented, could be more challenging to pass this year because of budget concerns.

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