Friday, September 11, 2009

Senator Gumm's "Senate Minute" for Sept. 11-17, 2009 - Sales Tax Holiday and Real Tax Reform

Hello again, everybody! Recently, I was in a political skirmish with an organization that issued a report critical of Oklahoma’s back-to-school sales tax holiday.

Passing the sales tax holiday was one of the most important legislative goals I had when you elected me to be your senator. Forces from big city mayors to high-dollar lobbyists worked to defeat the proposal. After years of hard work, perseverance and bipartisan cooperation, we finally overcame those obstacles to pass the bill.

Although the sales tax holiday has been in effect for three years, and is very popular across Oklahoma, some still fight it. One of those groups continuing to oppose the sales tax holiday is The Tax Foundation, a Washington special interest group.

A few weeks ago, this group produced a report that said policies like the popular sales tax holiday are “gimmicks” preventing real tax reform. As the chief legislative sponsor of the sales tax holiday, I was asked by a reporter what I thought of that claim.

I said the group should speak with the thousands of Oklahoma families who saved millions of dollars during the back-to-school sales-tax holiday. Perhaps then, I said, they might have a real-world view of what this policy means to real people and the budgets of real families.

For whatever reason, my comments must have really annoyed this organization. Their director of state projects felt compelled to write to one of Oklahoma’s larger newspapers a “Letter to the Editor” attacking me.

In “The Tulsa World,” Joseph D. Henchman wrote my comments were “political rhetoric and wishful thinking.” Mr. Henchman’s letter ignores the fact the sales tax holiday, for the first time, eased the tax burden on those least able to afford it by reducing the regressive sales tax.

He also ignored the work done when I was chair of the Senate Finance Committee to reduce taxes for every Oklahoma family while calling for more reform of the state’s tax code. On that point, he and I are in agreement. Given this organization’s response to the sales tax holiday, I doubt we would agree on how.

My top tax policy priority for the remainder of my service as your senator is to find a way to eliminate the sales tax on groceries. Of all the taxes we pay, this is the must hurtful to those families who can afford it least. Regressive sales taxes like the grocery tax create a higher effective tax rate for those with lower incomes – and that is patently unfair.

Either this group knew about my work to remove the sales tax on groceries and chose to ignore it in their attack on me, or they oppose what I believe should be the next step to ease the tax burden on Oklahoma families. Either way, it seriously calls into question their veracity on an issue critically important to every Oklahoman.

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

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