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Local & Regional

Governor delivers State of the State

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt hit on some familiar themes during his fourth annual State of the State address on Monday — improving the state’s health care, education, infrastructure and business climate. But he also gave his support to a longtime priority for Democrats — eliminating the state sales tax on groceries.

The first-term Republican, who faces reelection this year, also presented his executive budget proposal to help kick of the 2022 legislative session.

“Many Oklahomans are already struggling under the weight of record inflation,” Stitt said in remarks prepared for delivery. “Let’s give them more help this year. Because, after all, we need more taxpayers, not more taxes.”

The state currently imposes a 4.5% sales tax on groceries. Local jurisdictions often impose additional sales taxes that can increase the tax rate on groceries to more than 10% in many communities.

Stitt also renewed his criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark court decision on criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country, known as the McGirt decision.

“From the beginning, I’ve sounded the alarm on the Supreme Court’s McGirt decision,” Stitt said. “Because I knew then, and I know now, that even a narrow Supreme Court ruling can fundamentally change a state.

“Oklahoma has been robbed of the authority to prosecute crimes.”

Although the Legislature is expected to have a record-high $10.3 billion to appropriate for next year’s budget, about $2 billion more than was spent on the current year’s budget, Stitt and legislative leaders have both said they expect spending to remain relatively flat.

Both Stitt and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Thompson have said they want to keep at least $2 billion in reserves to better position the state in case of a future economic downturn.