The Norman Transcript

Opinion

January 17, 2013

State remains dependent on oil, gas tax revenues

NORMAN — The optimistic report on state and local sales taxes from holiday shopping doesn’t tell the whole story. State officials say total collections for December were down about 2.5 percent from the same month in 2011.

That’s primarily due to lower energy prices and rebates offered to oil and gas companies. The Associated Press reports that total tax collections on oil and gas production in December were down 85 percent from December 2011.

For the first six months of the fiscal year, oil and natural gas tax collections have dropped nearly $231 million, or 94 percent, from the same time in 2011.

As hard as Oklahoma tries, it can’t wean itself from taxes produced by oil and gas production. A big effort was made after the oil bust of the 1980s to reduce our dependence on severance taxes, but it didn’t get much traction.

Consumers drive about 70 percent of the nation’s economy, and healthy spending funds local and state services. The chair of Norman’s Chamber of Commerce told board members this week that Norman’s sales tax growth rate lags behind such cities as Moore, Edmond, Broken Arrow and Oklahoma City.

Using charts with equalized tax comparisons, Trey Bates said the other cities seemed to have recovered quicker from the recession and are gaining ground against Norman. Someone suggested a bridge to make it easier for Blanchard and Newcastle residents to get to Norman.

It’ll take more than one bridge as Norman rebuilds interstate overpasses at Main Street, Lindsey Street and eventually State Highway 9. Until then, merchants say they’ll make an effort to let customers know Norman is still open for business.

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