Just days before the start of the 2012 legislative session in Oklahoma City, a pair of conservative leaders have laid down a strict interpretation of the tax pledge signed in recent years by nearly all Republicans (and many Democrats) in the Legislature.
One signatory of a letter circulated to all legislators yesterday is a national anti-tax leader, the other is an Oklahoman who runs the state arm of a leading national group advocating limited government and economic growth.
Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and Stuart Jolly of Americans for Prosperity (Oklahoma) sent the letter, addressed to every member of the Oklahoma state House of Representatives and Senate, as discussion of income tax rate reductions intensify.
That discussion has paralleled intense scrutiny of business incentives and tax credits, with proposals to strictly limit some of those programs, in part as a means to free up revenues that can be applied to tax reduction or limitation.
The text of the letter, which CapitolBeatOK obtained late Monday, follows:
“As the 2012 legislative session begins, it is important to remember that ending a tax credit or deduction without an offsetting tax cut is a tax increase.
“When you end a credit or deduction, you take income away from the taxpayer and give it to the government. This is undeniably a tax increase.
“Proponents of higher taxes and increased spending will argue that credits and deductions are just spending in the tax code.
This line of thinking is flat out wrong.
Americans for Tax Reform has continually made this clear, along with our allies in the tax fight like the Cato Institute’s Senior Fellow Dan Mitchell, who noted last year that, ‘The real threat is back-door hikes resulting from the elimination and/or reduction of so-called tax breaks. The big spenders on the left are being very clever about this effort, appealing to anti-spending and pro-tax reform sentiments by arguing that it is important to get rid of “tax expenditures” and “spending in the tax code.” ‘
“Additionally, it is important to note that signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge commits signers to oppose changes in tax deductions or credits that increase the net tax burden on Oklahomans.
For example, a Pledge signer could endorse and sign legislation eliminating a particular tax credit or deduction as long as the same piece of legislation contained a reduction in taxes by the same amount or more.
The offsetting reduction could be expanding another deduction or credit and/or reducing marginal tax rates.
“As you begin to examine and reform Oklahoma’s tax code, please keep in mind the need for effective tax reform that does not increase taxes.”
The letter has now been posted online. ATR is touting the letter, and a similar communication to Kansas leaders.