Just Say No To State Tax Hikes

Perhaps you’ve seen various straight-news stories in Oklahoma about state budget cuts, furloughs, and “revenue shortfalls of near-catastrophic proportions” (how’s that for objectivity?).

But with all this reportage on the state budget, where’s the concern for your family budget?

After all, it’s not just state agencies which have budget woes and a perpetual “backlog of unmet needs.” Oklahoma families have our own backlog of unmet needs, and our own revenue shortfalls and budget cuts. For many Oklahomans—especially the thousands who have lost their jobs since the recession began—the family’s rainy-day fund is running low.

So with budget problems mounting at 23rd and Lincoln, and with The Journal Record reporting that "a few progressives have whispered the words ‘tax increase’ as a possible way to right the budget," taxpayers need to be vigilant.

To their credit, Governor Brad Henry, House Speaker Chris Benge, and Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee are all saying tax hikes are not an option right now. That is good to hear. As the nearby chart illustrates, the average Oklahoman already works longer to pay federal, state, and local taxes than to pay for food, clothing, and shelter combined. And the Obama-Reid-Pelosi regime is poised to make matters worse. Enough is enough.
Even though state leaders are saying tax hikes aren’t on the table, we would be wise to remember Ronald Reagan’s words: Trust but verify. Oklahoma taxpayers would breathe a little easier if our politicians would sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform.

Were you aware that Oklahoma ’s politicians raised taxes in 2009? I wasn’t, until I saw an Oklahoma Policy Institute item about a regressive new tax on wire transfers that will hurt Oklahoma businesses. Later I read an article by state Rep. David Dank which mentioned a 2.25 percent workers’ compensation premium tax placed on some 20,000 small businesses. And those are just two that I happened to catch.

With the 2010 legislative session approaching, now’s a good time for politicians to visit atr.org and pledge to the taxpayers of their district and to all the people of Oklahoma: “I will oppose and vote against any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

Currently, fewer than 20 percent of Oklahoma’s legislators have made that promise. The rest are keeping their options open, reserving the right to take more of your money and give it to bureaucrats.

As Brian Downs, executive director of Oklahomans for Responsible Government, says, “signing this pledge to keep all tax increases off the table while fixing Oklahoma’s budget gap will give taxpayers some peace of mind that their government leaders here in Oklahoma are listening to them.”
Oklahoma’s budget situation seems to get worse every month, and things could really get ugly if things like SQ 744 and Obama’s Medicaid expansion come to pass. The pressure to raise taxes will mount. Now is the time to just say no.

About the author: Dutcher is vice president for policy at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), a conservative think tank.