Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Raise Taxes to Cut Taxes?

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant

Hello again, everybody! Legislative committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives continue consideration of the hundreds of bills filed for 2008.

As committees approve bills, and refer them to the full Senate or House, we get a better idea of the nature of this session, and it is a mixed bag. Not every bill filed is good for Oklahoma; in fact, some are quite bad for our state, and a big part of my job as your senator is to help kill those bills that would be bad for our state and its people.

One of the worst proposals on the table this year is a measure that would begin to “sunset,” or systematically end, many of our state’s tax exemptions. The result would be a systematic tax increase for a broad spectrum of Oklahoma business activities. In fact, if enacted as presented, it would by far be the largest tax increase in Oklahoma’s history.

Proponents of ending those exemptions have been clear: they want to raise taxes so they can cut taxes – primarily for the wealthiest among us. I know; it does not make sense to me, either. This proposal would be a “tax shift” that is potentially devastating for many Oklahoma businesses and jobs. It could drive up food prices for you and me, but more on that in a moment.

This notion of “tax shifting” – from an economic development standpoint – troubles me greatly. In essence, ending these exemptions would be breaking a promise we made to businesses that have invested in our state and our people.

Businesses relocate or expand into a state based on a set of promises. New and existing businesses that make new investments and create new jobs do not deserve to have the rug pulled out from under them by eliminating exemptions on which they depend.

For those of us in rural Oklahoma, the idea to sunset these exemptions should be especially troubling. Agriculture is one component of our economy that benefits from these tax exemptions. I believe it would be very poor policy for Oklahoma to turn its back on this pillar of our state’s economy, a segment of the economy on which we all depend for life itself.

I like the bumper sticker that says, “If you eat, you are involved in agriculture.” Removing the tax exemptions enjoyed by the agriculture industry would make it harder for our farmers and ranchers to make a living; it also could raise food prices we all pay at the grocery store. Some would do all that just to cut taxes for the very wealthy.

Oklahoma should keep its promises. Because of that, I will oppose this measure at every turn. It is a bad idea that ultimately would cost all of us much more than it potentially might save.

Thanks again for reading the “Senate Minute,” have a great week and may God bless you all.

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