House limits itemized deductions (The Norman Transcript)

By Janelle Stecklein

OKLAHOMA CITY — Despite complaints that it could harm working families trying to deduct mortgage, childcare and student loan expenses from their taxes, Republican House members Monday pushed through a measure capping how much Oklahomans can claim.

The move, which caps the amount of itemized deductions at $17,000 per year, is expected to raise more than $100 million in new revenue to help plug the state’s lingering $878 million shortfall in the final days of session.

State Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Depew, said the revenue generated by the measure will help keep class sizes from increasing, road and bridge projects from stalling and prevent the wait to access disability services from growing.

He also said the idea was part of the House Democrat’s “Restoring Oklahoma” budget plan because itemized deductions are primarily used by wealthier Oklahomans.

But critics complained that the measure would simply shift the tax burden from wealthy Oklahomans and large oil and gas companies to working Oklahomans.

State and federal law allows Oklahomans to itemize their annual tax deductions on things like home mortgage interest, certain taxes, childcare expenses, student loan interest, moving expenses and medical expenses in an effort to lower their tax bills.

Charitable giving, which is also a popular deduction, is exempt under the measure.

“That is unduly burdensome on working Oklahomans (and) is being passed by a Legislature that is composed of people who don’t really know the effect of itemized deductions, don’t know the benefit of itemized deductions,” said state Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha.

In 2016, more than 70 percent of Oklahoma households opted to use the standard deduction of $6,300 for individuals and $12,600 for married couples, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute. The rest — primarily wealthier households — chose to itemize their expenses, the Tulsa-based group said.

Perryman, though, argued the state’s budget shortfall should not be balanced on the backs of Oklahomans who are already struggling to pay for their children’s daycare.

“This bill will pile on working Oklahomans the responsibility,” he said. “This bill will actually aid in a long-term, calculated plan to shift the tax burden from the wealthy and from oil and gas corporations to working Oklahomans.”

House Democrats, by and large, voted against the measure, while acknowledging the concept had been part of their caucus’ broader plan to balance the state’s $878 million shortfall.

In a statement, Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, said his Oklahoma City group intends to challenge the constitutionality of the measure if it becomes law.

“This bill is an income tax increase of over $101 million a year that targets Oklahomans who own a home with a mortgage, who pay property taxes that support local schools and other services, or who are being crushed by heavy medical bills,” he said.

“This bill is an income tax increase of over $101 million a year that targets Oklahomans who own a home with a mortgage, who pay property taxes that support local schools and other services, or who are being crushed by heavy medical bills.”

The measure still needs the approval from the state Senate and governor.


Margaret (Maggie) den Harder obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Theology from Seattle Pacific University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Originally from the Pacific Northwest area of Washington state, Maggie has called Tulsa home for the past 8 years. Since living in Tulsa, Maggie has worked in the legal field, higher education administration, and the nonprofit sector as well as actively volunteering in the community. Maggie also recently spent time at the City of Tulsa as a consultant and wrote the content for Resilient Tulsa, an action-oriented strategy designed to better equity in Tulsa. Through her work, community involvement, and personal experiences, Maggie is interested in the intersection of the law and mental health and addiction treatment issues, preventative and diversion programs, and maternal mental health, particularly post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. While working at Oklahoma Policy Institute as a research intern, Maggie further developed an interest in family dynamics and stability, economic security-related stress, and intergenerational trauma.

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