End the Grocery Tax; The Sky Won’t Fall

As I listened to the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the Oklahoma Municipal League (OML) and its lobbyists about my proposal to end the grocery sales tax, the story of “Chicken Little” came to mind.

OML is a special interest group funded with money from cities and towns (originally collected from you, the taxpayer) to speak out on municipal issues. As sure as the sun rises in the east, you may rest assured that any effort to provide tax relief to residents of cities and towns will draw their ire. 

This was the group that, for years, managed to deny Oklahoma families the back-to-school sales tax holiday. Their argument, just like Chicken Little claiming the sky is falling, was that it would devastate city budgets to provide this modest sales tax relief to families. Facts about such a sales tax holiday just did not matter to this group.

The facts are this: The sales tax holiday actually increased tax collections through increased economic activity; cities and towns are reimbursed for their “lost” sales tax on top of the increased tax collections the sales tax holiday spurred; and, the holiday was called “the most taxpayer-friendly” policy ever enacted by the Legislature.

The sky did not fall; Chicken Little was wrong.

Chicken Little is at it again. OML claims that removing the sales tax on groceries would devastate cities and towns. Again, the facts apparently do not matter.

The bill clearly guarantees cities and counties would be made whole when they can no longer collect the grocery tax. The bill says “revenue shall be apportioned to each municipality, county or authority…equal to the amount of sales tax revenue of such municipality, county or authority exempted” by the bill.

The sky will not fall; Chicken Little is wrong – again.

Further, the measure ensures that ending the grocery sales tax would not further devastate state services. It would take effect only when state revenues recover to pre-recession levels – a level that would ensure vital services would not be cut when the grocery tax ends.

Another troubling presumption OML apparently makes is that the $406 million that would be returned to families once the grocery tax ends simply would disappear from the economy. No, $406 million would remain in local communities, in the pockets of Oklahoma taxpayers.

That money, a quarter-billion dollars of which is sucked out of local and family budgets and sent to the state treasury in Oklahoma City, would remain in local communities. It would be spent in local communities, boosting not only family budgets, but local economies and businesses as well.

The grocery tax is a hurtful, regressive tax that hits average families hardest because it devours a greater percentage of their income than it does for the very wealthy. That is why I have continued my fight to remove the sales tax on groceries, and why – no matter the outcome this year – I will continue this battle so long as I serve in the Senate.