Stitt calls special session to eliminate grocery sales tax, vetoes one-time checks

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt addressed the public Thursday afternoon with an update on the Oklahoma state budget, recently signed bills and his plans for tax reform.

The biggest issue Stitt addressed was Oklahoma’s state nearly $10 billion budget for the year.

The governor stated this year’s budget was not passed after negotiations. He said no negotiations took place, and claimed he only received the budget the night of May 16, after it was made available to the public. He said the legislature’s decision to pass the budget left him and the people of Oklahoma “in the dark.”

“Since then, my team and I have been going over [the budget] line by line,” Stitt said.

The governor raised his biggest issue with the budget: a lack of inflation relief.

>>>MORE: Oklahomans find ways to deal with record inflation

“Parts of the budget don’t provide inflation relief for Oklahomans and their families,” Stitt stated.

Specifically, he emphasized his disappointment that the budget did not provide a cut to the state’s portion of the 4.5 percent grocery tax. Instead, the budget currently gives taxpayers a small, $75 relief stimulus check along with a hefty package to attract Panasonic to Oklahoma.

The governor called the stimulus check a “slap in the face to Oklahomans and their families.”

Oklahoma is one of 13 states in the U.S. where groceries are not exempt from general sales taxes, according to a 2021 report from the Tax Policy Center.

Efforts to cut the state’s portion of the grocery sales tax has remained in limbo since the early spring.

Thursday, Gov. Stitt vetoed HB 4473 and HB 4474 that provide the “inflation relief” checks and SB 1075 to reduce tax on motor vehicle purchases. He called on the Oklahoma legislature to provide real, meaningful tax relief to Oklahomans.

He encouraged bipartisan efforts in the state legislature to continue working to cut the state’s portion of the grocery tax.

“[I] applaud Democrats if they are on board with the grocery tax [cut]. Let’s do it,” Gov. Stitt said.

He also emphasized the long-term benefits of lasting income tax relief compared to the one-time stimulus payment.

“I respect the Legislature’s attempt to return money to the taxpayers, but the right policy is to provide a permanent income tax cut. One-time $75 checks will not make a lasting difference for most Oklahomans and could actually increase inflation, not reduce it,” he said.

However, there are some aspects of the budget Stitt said he agreed with — like the pay increase for Oklahoma law enforcement officers.

“We will always back the blue in Oklahoma,” the governor said.

>>>MORE: TPD addresses officer shortage and ongoing recruiting efforts

Along with his plans for inflation relief, the governor briefly touched on other Oklahoma news during a Q&A.

He addressed Tuesday’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that left 19 children and two teachers dead.

Gov. Stitt explained he reached out to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and he called the shooting an act of “pure evil.”

In the wake of Oklahoma passing the most restrictive abortion ban in the U.S., the governor reiterated during the press conference that he aims to make Green Country the most anti-abortion state in the nation.

“I was very clear on the campaign trail,” he said. “I’m not sure how much clearer I can be. We don’t believe in abortions here in Oklahoma.”

>>>MORE: EXPLAINER: What happens in Oklahoma is Roe v. Wade is overturned?