Monday, November 5, 2007

Tax Cuts Vrs. Pork

Last week I was surprised when the leadership of one of the groups which has traditionally supported smaller government came out in opposition to reducing taxes. The comments were made by leaders of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce at a recent hearing of the House of Representative's Economic Development and Financial Services Committee.

I have always articulated the common sense belief that the best way to reduce the size of government is through reducing the level of taxation. With less money, the government will naturally tend to prioritize the limited number of functions it should be involved in and leave the rest to the free market. I have also observed that groups who oppose tax relief are probably afraid of having a pet program of their own de-funded by this prioritization process.

It has become clear that the leadership of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce understands this viewpoint all too well. And, shockingly, they appear to fear that if state government continues to cut taxes, one of their pet programs may not be funded to their level of satisfaction.

The pet program is known as the Oklahoma Opportunity Fund. It is funded with $45 million of our taxpayer dollars. Most of that money has already been spent. Because the manner in which the fund was created has been ruled unconstitutional, the sole discretion for how the money is spent appears to have been left to Governor Brad Henry. Henry recently approved spending $10 million out of the fund on improvements benefiting a privately owned airline.

In opposing the continuation of tax relief for Oklahomans, the economic development director of the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce said, "I would take the Opportunity Fund over future tax cuts in a heartbeat."

I do not believe it is right for the government to take money away from taxpayers and give it to targeted businesses. I certainly do not think it is right that politicians are given the power to play God when it comes to deciding who the winners are in the business world. The process of government subsidizing business operations is completely contrary to the important free market principles that empower consumers to decide who will be successful, based on which business is providing the best product at the best price.

I do not believe it is appropriate for chambers of commerce to advocate for a fund that benefits such a small number of business. This is at the expense of all the hard working business owners across Oklahoma who are forced to pay high taxes which inhibit their ability to grow their own businesses.

And, I do not think it is right or fair for Opportunity Fund money to be used to entice new businesses to move to Oklahoma when they will be competing with businesses that are already in Oklahoma. Taxing one business and then giving money to a competitor is not right.

This latest position reflects one more step in what is becoming a disturbing trend. Big business is partnering with and being empowered by big government. I believe it is important for the small business members of the Chambers of Commerce across Oklahoma to reassert themselves and reclaim control of the organization that is supposed to represent all Oklahoma businessmen, not a select few.

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