By Ellyn Hefner
Note from the author: For this month, I touched base with Tim Allen, Deputy Treasurer for Communications & Program Administration for State Treasurer Randy McDaniel. This resulting article updates House Bill 2178 — legislation that would provide a deduction for Oklahomans contributing to the OKSTABLE account. I thank Treasurer McDaniel for his support of this proposal. And Dear Readers: Get to know your state representatives and senators and have them support House Bill 2178!
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Legislature has an opportunity to do something to help people with disabilities. At the request of State Treasurer Randy McDaniel, legislation has been introduced to provide an Oklahoma income tax deduction for contributions to the Oklahoma STABLE Program, as known as OKSTABLE.
“I am asking the Legislature to create a state income tax deduction for contributions to the Oklahoma STABLE Program, the state-endorsed ABLE program to help people with disabilities,” Treasurer McDaniel said.
“Providing a state income tax deduction similar to what is currently available for the Oklahoma College Savings Plan is simply the right thing to do. It will encourage family and friends to contribute and save for the needs of their loved ones with disabilities.”
ABLE, which stands for Achieving a Better Life Experience, is a tax advantaged program to help people with disabilities save for expenses to improve their quality of life without endangering their eligibility for essential benefit programs.
House Bill 2178 by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, and Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, would provide a deduction from Oklahoma taxable income equal to contributions to the Oklahoma STABLE Program, or OKSTABLE. It would be limited to $10,000 per year for single taxpayers and $20,000 for couples filing jointly.
The language is the same as a longstanding state tax deduction for contributions to the state’s college savings programs, the direct-sold Oklahoma 529 College Savings Plan and the advisor-sold OklahomaDream 529.
The idea behind making the deduction similar is that people with disabilities deserve at least the same consideration as parents saving for their children’s college savings, and I would argue they deserve so much more.
The bill was unanimously approved by the House Appropriations and Budget Committee the first week of the legislative session in February. It is identical to a measure filed last year which passed the House but was not enacted due to the emergencies created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
McDaniel urged people with disabilities and their family members to contact their state representatives and senators to express their support for H.B. 2178.
“Members of the Legislature stay very busy during the session, and they are asked to vote hundreds of times on various bills,” he said. “Hearing from constituents about pending legislation helps make them aware of the issues involved and would help ensure passage.”
It is believed the tax deduction would help the program grow as not only the account owners – the people with disabilities – would be able to contribute and claim the deduction, but friends and family members could also take advantage of the deduction through their contributions.
OKSTABLE even has an option for friends and family to make electronic gift contributions through its website at OKSTABLE.org.
The program itself was launched in May 2018. After one year, it contained 177 accounts with $612,000. Today, OKSTABLE has grown to 664 accounts with $2.9 million. The growth has come through a lot of hard work by a group of volunteers, the OKSTABLE Ambassadors, that give of their time and energy to spread the word about the advantages of the program.
But It’s not so much about account numbers and dollar amounts, what really counts is that each account represents an Oklahoma with disabilities that is allowed the opportunity to enjoy a better quality of life. With an Oklahoma tax deduction for contributions, OKSTABLE can be so much more and it can help many more people.
NOTE: Contact Ellyn Novak Hefner, ChSNC, Special Needs Consultant via email at [email protected]. Hefner is guiding The City Sentinel’s continuing series of reports on the STABLE program and related policy issues.