One of the most disturbing trends in recent legislation is the push for placing corporate welfare projects into state statute. This involves the legislature writing laws which financially benefit certain corporate interests.
In essence, if powerful corporate leaders can make enough friends in the legislature through campaign contributions and special interest lobbying, they can develop the power to initiate laws which are self-serving. Usually, proponents of corporate welfare carefully craft their arguments, claiming that if the legislature provides them with special incentives, a massive amount of economic development will occur. This argument puts pressure on other legislators to support the incentive, since they do not want to be seen as voting against economic development.
This concern could not have been better demonstrated than by House Bill 2019. HB 2019 seeks to place a new law on the books which would allow a group of individuals to benefit financially for building a hotel next to Remington Park. Once the hotel is constructed, the state government would send the owners a check straight from the Oklahoma treasury, equaling the amount of income generated by sales tax on materials used in building the hotel.
How many Oklahoma small businesses would like to receive a big refund check for all the sales tax revenue they generated when they were building their business? How fair is it that one group can get this payment and not others? I believe it becomes dangerous when the Oklahoma Legislature starts writing laws which pick individual members of the business community to benefit from the public treasury, while others are forced to pay high sales tax rates that eat into their profit margin. Instead, we need to focus on reducing taxes across the board for Oklahoma individuals and businesses. It is this policy that will result in true economic development.
If we continue to implement a policy of high taxation with selective deductions for the privileged few, we encourage those who seek corporate welfare handouts, as well as lobbyists who jockey for access to politicians to ensure that their clients are the recipients of taxpayer largess. I fear this process gives far too much power to special interests and to the politicians who dole out favors.
HB 2019 passed the house by three and now heads over to the Senate. If HB 2019 comes back to the House for for another vote, I will again vote against it. I continue to believe that a strong majority of House District 31 constituents prefer small government and low taxation. Small government leads to significantly less potential for corruption and encourages true economic growth.