Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hoping Good Ideas Do Not Become Bd Policy

By Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant
Hello again, everybody! We are in one of the busiest times of the legislative session.

Few bills are in their final form at this point, and might change considerably between now and the final vote on them later in the session. In fact, the words “work in progress” are used to describe dozens of the bills we consider every day.

At this time of session ideas drive the discussion. If a lawmaker has a good idea in the form of a bill, then the vote often is to keep the idea alive, move it through the process in hopes it can be fully fleshed out before the session ends in late May.

Here is an example of an idea that still has not found its form. One of the talent shortages we have as a state is in the area of aerospace engineers; the idea is to attract more of these specialized individuals to Oklahoma to support our aviation industry.

In the Finance Committee, a bill was proposed to give newly graduated aerospace engineers a tax credit that would equal engineers’ annual income tax liability. In effect, we would be allowing engineers to work without having to pay any state income tax.

That is quite an incentive to attract engineers to the state, and attracting engineers to Oklahoma is a good idea. The problem is this bill would create a tax scheme in which some new residents of our state pay less in income tax than those of us who have invested our entire lives in Oklahoma.

While the idea to attract aerospace engineers to Oklahoma is a good one, this specific idea is a very bad way to do it. It reminds me of a proposal I helped kill a few years ago that would have allowed anyone moving to Oklahoma to pay fewer taxes for five years than lifelong Oklahomans.

Tax policy shows who and what we value. By creating a skewed tax scheme that establishes lower taxes for newcomers, the state would be putting a greater value on them than it does those of us who have long believed in and lived in Oklahoma.

That bill was passed out of the Finance Committee – not because of what it did, but what it would seek to accomplish: attracting more aerospace engineers. Now, we await that bill’s arrival on the Senate floor and I am curious as to whether the author of the bill has found a way to achieve his goal without skewing the tax code.

These “works in progress” should be a cause of both hope and worry. Hope because they are a means to implement good ideas that need more time; worry because they can be vehicles for bad policy. Among my goals as your senator is to ensure that good ideas do not become bad policy.

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

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