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Oklahoma voters have had a rough year. In the span of less than twelve months, their elected officials passed an income tax rate cut that a majority of Oklahomans opposed, saw that cut thrown out by the state’s supreme court for technical reasons, and then watched their elected officials re-pass the cut even though opposition had increased among Oklahoma voters.
The cut gradually lowers the state’s top personal income tax rate from 5.25 to 4.85 percent, and is likely to take full effect in 2018. Our colleagues at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) analyzed the cut, and found that the top fifth of Oklahoma households will receive a whopping 71 percent of the total benefits. The bottom 60 percent of Oklahomans, by contrast, will see just 9 percent of the benefits.
After being told about the plan’s lopsided distribution, 61 percent of Oklahoma voters polled said they opposed the cut this year—slightly more than the 60 percent share who opposed it the year before. And even among Oklahomans who were not told any details about the cut, less than half of all voters polled said they currently support it.
The Tulsa World reacted to the re-passing of this regressive and unpopular tax cut by calling it “a bad choice for a state that is desperately short on money for essential services, including schools, roads and public safety,” and by explaining that those public services are more important to the state’s economy than income tax cuts.
That same editorial also shined a bright light on the absurdity of lawmakers opting to yet again prioritize income tax cuts: “we saw no public groundswell to cut taxes this year. On the contrary, a few weeks ago the largest public political demonstration in state Capitol history brought an estimated 25,000 supporters of public schools to Oklahoma City.”