Thursday, May 20, 2021

Rep. Sean Roberts challenges Dems on grocery sales tax talking point, offered ballot referendum


Creating a Ballot Referendum to End the Taxation on Groceries, by Rep. Sean Roberts

OKLAHOMA CITY – This week consisted of the House accepting or rejecting amendments, and we also came to an agreement on the budget with the Senate and the Governor. In a response to the budget, the Democrat Caucus said:

"While an extra $500 million in savings sounds nice, our citizens are literally paying the price. With this money, we could end the state sales tax on groceries, which would save Oklahomans more than $250 million per year.”

If my Democrats colleagues truly believe in reducing the tax burden on Oklahomans, why did they vote for the largest tax increase in state history, but fail to file a bill to remove the sales tax on groceries this session?

The budget proposal boosts reserves from less than $300M to over $1B – nearly back to high water mark pre-pandemic. This would be after the cutting of corporate income tax rates from 6% to 4%, and state income tax rates from 5% to 4.75%. Cutting taxes is good, it puts money back into the pockets of hard working Oklahomans. Another way to put money back into everyone’s pockets would be by exempting groceries from the sales tax.

This is why I attempted to bring House Bill 2844 to the legislature for a vote. That did not happen this year, but it is still able to be heard next year. HB 2844 would create a ballot referendum that reads as follows:

This measure would amend a provision in the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code.  It would provide a sales tax exemption for items that are eligible for purchase in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  The exemption would apply to any person or entity making the purchase even if the person or entity was not a participant in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

There are currently only six states that allow full taxes on groceries, Oklahoma being one. If this referendum were to be approved, Oklahoma businesses would see a growth in revenue due to Oklahomans purchasing groceries tax free in Oklahoma, instead of driving to any bordering state for cheaper groceries. While it is important to maintain and grow our states savings, we should also be looking at ways to ease the burden of taxation on all Oklahomans, such as this.

Sean Roberts represents District 36 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Osage and Tulsa counties.

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