The Norman Transcript

Opinion

May 18, 2013

Tax cuts help wealthy and harm schools

NORMAN — Perhaps it’s old news by now, but I hope the controversy will live on.

The governor and Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature recently agreed to reduce the state’s personal income tax from 5.25 percent to 5.0 percent in 2015. This tax cut will take about $237 million from state schools and other vital state services.

For a variety of reasons this action is irresponsible, unnecessary, and regressive. The main beneficiaries will be the state’s well-off taxpayers. About two thirds of the tax reductions will go to the wealthiest 20 percent of Oklahomans. The vast majority of the state’s poorest taxpayers will receive nothing. Middle income families could expect only about $40 a year in cuts.

Others, including Norman’s Superintendent of Schools, have pointed out how harmful any tax cuts will be to Oklahoma’s public schools. Over the past five years, enrollment has increased as state formula funding has declined. Between 2008 and 2012, reductions in state spending per student for common schools in Oklahoma was the fourth largest in the nation.

And here’s the startling fact. These tax cuts were not supported by public opinion. Almost every poll shows that people like tax cuts in theory, but when they understand the potential consequences, many change their mind.

A recent poll by The Global Strategy Group shows that 52 percent of Oklahoma voters favored the income tax cuts in the abstract. But, when told that over 40 percent of Oklahomans would receive no tax cut at all, about 60 percent were opposed. Even a plurality of Republicans opposed cuts after learning how much this action favored the wealthiest taxpayers.

A majority of voters (56 percent) also opposed the plan when told that “Oklahoma will collect $125 million less in tax revenues to fund state services, such as education, public safety, and health care.”

When voters really understand what happens when tax cuts disproportionately benefit the rich and might harm vital state services, most folks respond rationally. Why don’t elected officials grasp this fact?

David Morgan, of Norman, is a retired professor of political science.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Opinion
  • Repairs still needed

    Lawmakers once again kicked the can down the road on making needed repairs to the state Capitol. By a 62-34 vote, they turned down a Senate-approved plan to authorize up to $160 million in bonds to repair the nearly century-old building....

    April 24, 2014

  • Health care needs have reached critical stage

    Once again, the Republican-led Oklahoma legislators are leaving Oklahoma’s neediest in the dust with their proposed 2014-2015 budget. Studies by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Can’t have it both ways

    Local sheriff Joe Lester wasn’t among the state sheriffs and lawmakers protesting the removal of state prisoners from county jails this week. The sheriffs, some of whom have protested by having too many state prisoners in their ...

    April 24, 2014

  • Help for rural America

    A drive through rural parts of the Southwest can be depressing. For sale and for rent signs are prevalent. Businesses along main streets have closed. Unless they are close to a major interstate highway, many communities are in decline....

    April 23, 2014

  • Embarrassment to Oklahoma, again

    The standardized testing that was halted in local schools Monday is another embarrassment to the state. The same thing happened a year ago and Oklahoma gave them another chance....

    April 23, 2014

  • Time to move on; exit of Sebelius is right choice

    From the moment it became obvious that healthcare.gov wasn’t working, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius became damaged goods for the White House....

    April 23, 2014

  • Happy birthday to us

    We don’t expect any cake and that many candles might be dangerous but today is the unofficial 125th birthday of Norman....

    April 22, 2014

  • Hero of Haarlem … for common good

    “Trudging stoutly along by the canal,” as the story goes, the 8-year-old son of a Dutch sluicer was returning home from delivering cakes to a blind man. Humming as he passed the dikes, he noticed that recent rains had made his father’s job ...

    April 22, 2014

  • Hate without end

    The news that a former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan is suspected of shooting and killing three people near Jewish community centers in Kansas seems at first glance like a disparaged past flaring briefly into the present. Americans like ...

    April 21, 2014

  • Reform is necessary

    Editor, The Transcript: Last year, the legislature passed laws reforming the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, which was a good start, but more is needed. Recent media reports have revealed that the ODVA employs M.D. and D.O. ...

    April 20, 2014

Video
Facebook