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Oklahoma governor vetoes part of state budget, calls for special session to eliminate grocery tax

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Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announces his line-item veto of the state budget on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced he will veto portions of the $9.8 billion budget for the coming fiscal year during a Thursday afternoon press conference.

Stitt said he will veto Senate Bill 1075, House Bill 4474 and House Bill 4473, criticizing them as not providing enough tax relief to Oklahomans.

HB4474 would have created the Inflation Relief Stimulus Fund and HB4473 would have appropriated money to that fund, in the form of one-time payments of $75 for each individual tax filer and $150 for joint filers.

Stitt called the bills "a slap in the face to hardworking Oklahomans" and a "political gimmick during an election year."

"I never expected Republicans to take a page out of Joe Biden's liberal playbook and waste $181 million, sending government checks out," said Stitt.

SB1075 would have eliminated the 1.25% sales tax on motor vehicles.

"Cutting the new car sales tax does nothing for families who are struggling to afford prices for food, groceries, gas and everything in between," said Stitt.

Instead, Stitt is calling the legislature back for a special session on June 13 to eliminate the state grocery tax and reduce the personal income tax. He claims those two actions will save the average Oklahoma family $453 a year.

During his State of the State address in February, Stitt singled out his support for the elimination of the state's 4.5% grocery tax. State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have also expressed interest in doing so too, but no bills filed this session made their way though the full legislative process.

Oklahoma has one of the higher grocery tax rates out of the 13 states in the U.S. that taxes groceries.

Stitt also heavily criticized the oft-secret nature of the state budget process.

"Why is it happening behind closed doors? Why are only a select few in charge, while the rest of us are expected to nod our heads and not even ask questions?" asked Stitt.

House Speaker Pro Tem Kyle Hilbert (R - Bristow) responded on Twitter, saying the state constitution empowers the legislature to write the budget, not the executive branch.

"Did the Governor get everything he wanted in this budget? No. Neither did the House or the Senate," said Hilbert.

Stitt has denounced being cut-out of budget negotiations in the past. In 2020, he vetoed the state's budget, only to have the legislature override that veto hours later.

Because he was excluded from this budget process, Stitt said he will let it go into law without his signature, save for a line item veto removing a $360,000 expense aimed at printing opinions by the state Attorney General.

Stitt also line item vetoed Senate Bill 1052, claiming it would provide pay increases for private prisons on the back of taxpayers.

It's unclear how legislative leaders will respond to Stitt's action, but in a statement sent to media members, House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka) said, "The House will respond to the governor's many inaccurate and misleading statements in due course."

Ryan LaCroix is the Director of Content and Audience Development for KOSU.
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