(Oklahoma City – January 29, 2009) Two new bills introduced for the 2009 legislative session by a bipartisan pair of legislators would provide financial relief from the rising cost of groceries for families in Oklahoma who are struggling.
HB 2204, sponsored by Representative John Trebilcock (R-Broken Arrow), and SB 567, sponsored by Senator Andrew Rice (D-Oklahoma City), would help hard-pressed Oklahoma families by increasing Oklahoma’s Sales Tax Relief credit, an existing tax credit intended to offset the sales tax on groceries for low- and moderate-income households. The credit is commonly referred to as the grocery tax credit.
Oklahoma has among the nation’s highest rates of food insecurity. In spite of that, Oklahoma is one of only 16 states to levy a tax on groceries. Since low- and moderate-income families spend a greater share of their income on groceries than do wealthier families, taxing groceries is considered regressive.
Some legislators, including Rep. Trebilcock have previously fought to fully repeal the sales tax on groceries. But this year, in the face of tough economic times, he is proposing a targeted way to help Oklahomans most in need.
“Each year I have filed bills to repeal the grocery sales tax. However, given this year’s difficult budget situation, it is not practical to take that revenue source away from the state. Increasing the grocery tax credit is the best available way of providing for Oklahomans who need it most,” said Rep. John Trebilcock.
Food prices have risen more than 6 percent in the past year alone. This is at the same time that people are feeling the pinch of the national recession. “The current economic downturn has placed growing demands on food pantries and other social assistance providers. In a time when so many families are struggling, increasing the grocery tax credit is one thing we can do to help those in greatest need,” said Senator Andrew Rice.
A growing coalition of organizations and individuals representing the faith community, social service providers, seniors and others have joined together to promote a boost in the grocery tax credit.
“We know this will be a tough budget year and there will be competing demands on scarce resources. But to the extent that targeted tax cuts are part of the discussions during the upcoming session, we fervently hope that increasing the amount of the grocery tax credit and raising eligibility will be a priority,” said Matt Guillory, executive director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, a member of the coalition.