Sunday, December 14, 2008

End the Grocery Tax - Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Dec. 5, 2008

Hello again, everybody! Some ideas, however good they may be, simply take time to find a foothold in the Oklahoma Legislature.

This week, a news story originating in the metropolitan newspapers related the number of bills that have been “recycled” for the 2009 session of the Oklahoma Legislature. There was even an editorial in one of the papers about the re-introduced bills.

Several of these re-introduced bills were ones that I have written. The truth is that recycled bills are nothing new, and they represent a key strategy for getting something enacted.

Sometimes, it takes years to overcome all the obstacles every bill faces, even very good proposals. Re-introducing bills is a way to wear away the opposition and enact some very good laws.

For example, the back-to-school sales tax holiday was introduced several years in a row before we were finally able to break down the wall of opposition and make it a reality two years ago. It is one of the most taxpayer-friendly proposals ever enacted by the Legislature.

Another tax cut bill for which I will continue to fight, even in years like 2009 when it looks impossible, is repeal of the sales tax on groceries. This is one of the most burdensome of taxes on middle class families because it is a regressive tax.

“Regressive taxes” put the greatest tax burden on those who can least afford to pay it. Regressive taxes take a greater percentage of middle class families’ income than they take from higher income people. The sales tax is a textbook example of a regressive tax.

The state’s dependence on the sales tax – along with cities and counties – puts a heavier tax burden on those among us least able bear it. As a result, middle- and low-income families have a higher effective tax rate than the wealthy, and that is not fair.

During my time as chair of the Senate Finance Committee, we made the tax system much fairer for middle class families by passing the two largest tax cuts in Oklahoma’s history. Those efforts, however, are incomplete so long as Oklahoma charges sales tax on groceries.

We need to move Oklahoma’s tax code farther in a direction that will be good for families of every economic level. The best way to do that is to continue hammering away at our dependence on the sales tax and the harm it causes to middle class families.

Ending the state grocery tax, like the back-to-school sales tax holiday, puts money back into the pockets of those who need it most. If we are going to cut taxes, we should cut one that hits families hardest.

It has been said that persistence is all-powerful. I agree. Until the bill becomes law, I will persistently fight to end the grocery tax. I owe you, and all the people of Oklahoma, nothing less.

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

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