Come Home to Oklahoma (Please? We’ll Give you a Tax Break)

OKLAHOMA CITY — A measure to attract residents to rural Oklahoma passed the full House on Monday.

House Bill 1678, the “Come Home to Oklahoma Act”, by state Rep. Jeff Hickman (R-Fairviw), would provide a five-year income tax exemption to anyone moving from out of state to a rural city or county in Oklahoma which has been losing population.

To qualify for the exemption, the new resident would have to purchase or build a single-family home in one of the 48 counties, or 43 cities in the remaining 29 counties, which have lost population since either the 1940 census or the 1990 census. This timeframe captures areas of Oklahoma which had significant population losses after either the Industrial Revolution or the oil bust.

Hickman said the measure is a key to spurring rural population growth and economic development:

This would be a great tool as we work to bring rural Oklahoma what it needs more than anything else…people. The increased property and sales tax revenues created as new residents move to Oklahoma will more than make up for the impact of the exemption. This positive impact will benefit the entire state and ensure that rural Oklahoma is part of a thriving state economy rather than a drain.

The incentive could be used to attract professionals from out-of-state such as physicians to underserved rural areas and could also help address shortages in areas such as correctional officers at Oklahoma prisons, many which are located in rural counties:

The best part is this temporary exemption would apply to people who are currently not paying Oklahoma income tax anyway as they are out-of-state residents. They would share our sales and property tax burdens and put customers back in the trade areas of our rural businesses.

Hickman said whether the incentive allows a recent college graduate to come home to Oklahoma for a job that may not pay quite what they were making out-of-state, or it encourages a native Oklahoman to come home upon their retirement, the population growth is good for state revenues:

We even invite Americans who have never called Oklahoma “home” to relocate here and enjoy our wonderful quality of life and low cost-of-living. It is going to take something bold and creative to rebuild rural Oklahoma, but it is a way of life worth saving.

House Bill 1678 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives and now proceeds to the state Senate.

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