House of Representatives

Democratic Leader Holds Interim Study on Ending State Grocery Tax


9/17/2021 11:29:00 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY -- House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, hosted an interim study Thursday focused on exploring Oklahoma’s state sales tax on groceries.

The study, which included speakers from the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, Oklahoma Policy Institute, National Conference of State Legislatures, TSET, and the Oklahoma Municipal League, looked at how the state tax on groceries affects Oklahomans.

“We heard a lot of comments and concerns regarding the state sales tax on groceries,” Virgin said. “I feel confident leaving the study that there are people on all sides of this conversation who want to see the tax end. Now it’s about finding the political will to make it happen.”

 One of the key talking points of the study was regarding the state’s regressive tax system. 

“Sales taxes are the most regressive types of taxes we have,” said Paul Shinn, Oklahoma Policy Institute budget and tax senior policy analyst. Due to the reliance on sales taxes, like the grocery tax, Oklahomans making the least money pay significantly more in taxes as a percentage of their income than those making the most, Shinn said.

Some of the strongest points made in favor of the tax were actually about protecting cities, which is something Virgin and Democrats care about deeply.

“We aren’t going to support a policy that takes away money from cities,” Virgin said. “Most Americans live in an area where there isn’t a state tax on groceries. Oklahomans can too. We just need to get serious about it happening here.”

Oklahoma’s current grocery sales tax credit helps, but due to an increased cost of living over the last three decades, it doesn’t go far enough. 

“Oklahoma has a sales tax relief credit with the intent to offset the sales tax on groceries, but the credit hasn’t changed since 1998,” said Bailey Perkins Wright, a state advocate and policy director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. “The price of milk is way different today for Oklahoma families than it was 23 years ago.”

Moving forward, legislation will be crafted to address the state sales tax on groceries. 

“Last session, we eliminated a big chunk of taxes for corporations and even tried to eliminate the corporate income tax completely,” Virgin said. “Those conversations and negotiations seemed to take place in weeks if not days. We have the authority and ability to end the taxes on milk and bread next session so that Oklahomans can start saving money in 2022. House Democrats will have a legislative vehicle ready to do just that.”

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