"Immoral" — that's how dozens of clergy members and charitable organizations describe lawmakers' plan to fix Oklahoma's budget by reducing tax credits that mainly go to working families and the elderly.
"What we need to do as a society is to continue to protect the most vulnerable — the poor among us, the disabled, the elderly — who would be immensely disadvantaged if these tax credits disappear," said Bill Tabbernee, who leads the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.
Lawmakers have put on the table reductions to the earned income, sales tax relief, child and child care tax credits to close Oklahoma's $1.3 billion budget hole. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, lawmakers' current budget plan would raise taxes on all two-parent, two-children families making less than $71,000 a year. If that family made $25,000 a year, they stand to lose $500 under that budget plan.
As schools cut days because of budget cuts, working parents will be forced to come up with an extra day of child care. Oklahoma Policy Institute's David Blatt said under lawmakers' current plan, they won't have a tax credit to help pay for it.
"It is doubling down on the pain and hardship the families are already facing and is simply not a fair way to go," Blatt said.
Several Oklahoma church leaders said they'll do what they can if lawmakers cut tax credits helping poor families. Rev. Chris Moore of Tulsa said the average church spends about 3 percent of its budget on social services, which is small, but churches can't take on all the state's programs for those in need.
"In this state, in order to fill the gap that the government now provides, all churches would have to do is increase that from 3 percent to 97 percent," Moore said.
Nearly 150 clergy members, along with two dozen foundations and nonprofits signed a letter asking legislators and the governor to fully preserve the broad-based tax credits.