NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
Last week media sources announced the governor and legislative leadership had reached an agreement on a cut in the state income tax starting in 2015. Please contact your representative, senator, President Pro Tem Bingman, and Speaker Shannon to oppose HB 2032, the current version of the amended House bill cutting the state income tax. Any cut in the state tax revenue at this time is a bad idea for the following reasons:
1. The myth, embraced by the Governor, Speaker Shannon, President Pro Tem Bingman, and most Republicans in the House and Senate, that tax revenues will grow as a result of cutting taxes has been debunked many times by respected economists. Just because tax revenue increases after a tax cut is not evidence of a causative relationship. Many other factors contribute to tax revenue. At a panel of economists last summer one exclaimed, “Tax cuts lose revenue. The research has shown this a thousand times. Enough already.”
2. Oklahoma still has a long way to go before state services recover from the recession that began in late 2008. Oklahoma schools are functioning with $200 million less while dealing with 32,000 additional students.
Several of my teacher friends have announced their retirement. They have reached their limit of dealing with more students, more difficult students, less support, less resources and no pay increases. This tax cut when fully implemented will take another $237 million from schools and other core government services.
3. The Department of Corrections is severely understaffed leaving guards outnumbered 160:1 by inmates on some shifts. The legislature continue their “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” mentality. Promising moves last session to implement progressive measures in the treatment of prisoners have largely been scuttled this year. A destructive prison riot is almost certainly in our future.
4. The opportunity to expand Medicaid and provide health insurance for more than 100,000 more Oklahomans was scuttled by a coalition of ignorant and ill-informed House and Senate leaders and a Governor who utterly failed to lead on this issue. We can afford to do this, and we need to find the funds. It’s the right thing to do. A tax cut is completely the wrong approach.
5. Our Capitol is falling apart. The most visible evidence of this is the entrance on the east side where a covered walkway had to be built to protect visitors from falling pieces of the building’s exterior. Inside the electrical, water and sewer systems are antiquated and inadequate to the task of supporting a modern office building. It will cost in excess of $200 million to bring the building into the 21st century, but no one in the legislature or the Governor’s office has the guts to champion a bond issue to do the job right. Instead, the Governor proposed spending $8 million next year to patch the cracks and study the problem. Know what? The problem has already been studied and the actions needed are clear. The legislature needs to pass a bond issue.
6. State employees are going on their seventh year without a pay raise. Seven years! I retired from OKDHA last year. For much of my career I felt I was doing good work and mostly felt appreciated. The last year, not so much.There are many good people in state government doing important work. They deserve your praise, and they deserve a pay raise.
7. Oklahomans already have low taxes. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Oklahoma’s tax burden ranks 40th in the nation. That’s not exactly a statistic crying out to be rectified by lowering taxes.
8. Tax burden is not a factor in recruiting industry to the state. When the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce polled industries considering locating in Oklahoma about what they looked for, low taxes didn’t make the top 10. GE’s recent announcement that they would locate a research center in Oklahoma indicated that proximity to customers, a quality education system, qualified workers, and good public services are what matters to industry.
9. We can’t ever get the money back.
10. Are you paying attention to Kansas?
Oklahoma is already a poor state. Reducing the already anemic flow of tax dollars to state coffers will likely damage already suffering state services and drive us further towards a third world economy. If you give the average tax payer $40, he or she will not notice the difference, but our poor state will slide further down the scale towards mediocre and finally inferior. Please don’t let this happen.
Dale Wares, LSW
Retired state employee