By Representative Brian Renegar, DVM
As we begin the second session of the 56th session, a pattern continues that has plagued us the previous eight years -- an over estimation of what each measure will bring into our general revenue fund.
The Step Up Oklahoma plan has an increase in state income tax that purports to bring in $175 million. David Blatt with the Oklahoma Policy organization, which is an independent watchdog association finds that it will actually bring in $67 million.
The Step Up Plan has a $1.50 increase on a pack of cigarettes. The amount generated by this plan is purported to be $243 million. Three years ago when this tobacco tax was initiated it was supposed to bring in $151 million, the next year it was supposed to bring in $187 million. In last year’s session it was supposed to bring in $215 million. Now Leadership is saying $243 million. “They” just plug in the number they need to satisfy their budget needs.
The Step Up Oklahoma plan also has an increase in GPT from 2% to 4% on all wells in Oklahoma; that sounds good until you read the details....... It allows all 7% wells to be shut down for a year and then go back to 4% tax; presently after a 36 month exemption period, wells automatically go to 7%. This bill will allow those wells to be shut down for a year and stay at the 4% for another 36 months.
If the oil industry closes down wells for a year and GPT stays at 4%, this will actually decrease our revenue. How do you say “special interest”? Even though we will lose in the long run the oil companies will use this supposed increase to help defeat the state question that increases the GPT to 7% like it was a decade ago. I have seen the figures and Oklahoma will not get back fiscal responsibility until we have 7% GPT, PERIOD!!
The last part of the Step Up plan is to put a GPT on wind energy. The wind industry is financing, through ad valorem taxes, school districts in many communities in northern and western Oklahoma. This helps all schools in Oklahoma because with these schools not needing state aid, the pie is bigger for other schools. Oil and gas does not have ad valorem tax responsibility. I fear if Oklahoma is unfriendly to wind energy, new wind farms may not come to Oklahoma.
There is one question that bothers me. The same people who got us into this mess expect us to take their recommendations to get us out of it --- Really?
Additionally, if this Step Up Oklahoma passes out of committee, then a $5,000 teacher pay raise will be voted on by the House. Unfortunately the figures don’t add up to pay for this raise, and also the school districts will have to come up with the incidentals that come with these raises. The incidentals include social security, contributions to teacher retirement, etc.
I was disappointed that a lot of real money was not raised in this Step Up Oklahoma package, enough to also give school support personnel and State employees a raise.
The first week of this session has been very busy and I would like to thank Michelle Fields, Manay Snyder, Jason Kienholz, Ross Selman, Brian and Brianna Caldwell, Brenda Showell and Mary Ross for stopping by and visiting with me.
Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.