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Deal or no deal

Gazette staff May 30th, 2012

Just a few weeks ago, Gov. Mary Fallin joined House and Senate leaders to trumpet an agreement for a reduction in the state personal income tax, lowering the top rate from 5.25 percent to 4.8 percent. It was a major plum for the governor, who had called for eliminating the personal income tax in her State of the State speech earlier this year.

Brad Gregg

Fallin and the Republican legislative leadership heaped congratulations on themselves at a May 18 news conference.

The gov called it “an important step forward for Oklahoma,” while House Speaker Kris Steele said legislators had decided to give taxpayer money “back to the hardworking people of Oklahoma.” Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman proclaimed that the proposal “shows the people of Oklahoma they can count on us to keep our word.”

But counting didn’t turn out to be anyone’s strong suit. As in the GOP-controlled Legislature hadn’t counted on a revolt from hard-line House Republicans who felt the cut didn’t go far enough.

Then things really went south when the Oklahoma Tax Commission reported that the tax cut would actually be a tax increase for many middle-class families, due to the loss of both the personal exemption and itemizing.

Two days before the end of the legislative session, House Republicans trotted out a brand-new tax plan and demanded the Senate act on it.

Senate Republicans cried foul, with Bingman firing off an angry news release. “A deal is a deal,” he wrote in the statement. “This is something everyone in this building has respected, at least until today.”

That’s a mighty grand statement for Bingman, who bowed out of an agreement with Fallin and Steele in last year’s legislation session to accept a $54 million federal grant for a health insurance exchange. But, hey, who’s counting?

It’s worth remembering that if you count your chickens before they hatch, you can end up with egg on your face. Otto von Bismarck once remarked that people who like sausage and laws should never watch either one being made. Maybe it’s time to air-drop a giant tarp over the Capitol building the next time the Legislature convenes.

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