Oklahoma lawmakers introduce bills to eliminate the sales tax on groceries

Eliminating taxes on groceries for Oklahomans has bipartisan support.
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The Oklahoma state Capitol.
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Eliminating taxes on groceries for Oklahomans has bipartisan support as lawmakers on both sides have proposed their own bills to make it happen.

Oklahoma is one of six states that allow full taxes on groceries, Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, said. His bill calls for a legislative referendum, which would put the change on a ballot. It was introduced last year and assigned to the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

"Grocery prices are continuing to rise along with inflation thanks to the reckless policies instituted by the Biden Administration," Roberts said in a news release. "If this referendum is put to a vote of the people and approved, Oklahoma businesses would see a growth in revenue and Oklahomans would be able to get more bang for their buck at the grocery store. It is common sense legislation that benefits all parties and I am looking forward to advocating for its passage this session."

Roberts said with state revenue up and a current surplus in funds, the economic climate is right for a cut to the sales tax. If his proposal is passed, the change would be reflected in the Oklahoma Sales Tax Code and give a sales tax exemption for items eligible for purchase in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The tax exemption would apply regardless of whether an individual was receiving SNAP benefits, according to the bill.

Eliminating the tax on groceries would save taxpayers around $250 million, according to House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman. That is one of the reasons she also has taken aim at the grocery sales tax with her own proposal in House Bill 3621. Virgin's bill does not call for a public referendum and would go into effect immediately if it is approved by the Legislature.

Virgin commissioned a study last year on Oklahoma’s sales tax on groceries. She said it left her feeling confident people on all sides want to see the tax end.

“Ending the grocery tax keeps money in the pocket of low- and middle-income Oklahomans,” Virgin said in a news release shortly after the study. “We have parents who are stretching every dollar to be able to feed their children. They shouldn’t have to calculate a cut for the state in their grocery bill.”

The state’s current grocery sales tax credit is no longer going far enough to help families offset the grocery tax because of inflation, Virgin said. The credit hasn’t changed since 1998.

Both bills will be considered during the legislative session, which begins Feb. 7.