Monday, July 9, 2018

Economy’s Trajectory Proves Tax Increases Unnecessary; By Rep. John Bennett


The state treasurer this week released a report that shows Oklahoma revenue totaled $12.18 billion for the past year, a record in collections.

This was $73 million more than the previous 12-month record of $12.1 billion set in February 2015. It’s more than $1.2 billion than was collected the previous year

The treasurer’s report shows growth in every major revenue stream for the 12-month period. The treasurer said in addition to the revenue picture, leading and lagging economic indicators paint a positive picture for the state’s economy.

June was the 15th consecutive month for positive growth for the state. Gross revenue for the month was $1.1 billion, which was $86.7 million, or 8.6 percent, more than was collected in June 2017.

This was all before the tax increases on motor fuels, cigarettes and the latest hike to the gross production tax on oil and gas wells took effect July 1.

This just underscores a point I’ve long been making, that the largest tax increase in state history was unnecessary.

It’s no secret that I fought against raising taxes on our citizens and instead advocated for our state government living within its means until times got better, just like regular citizens do. I also advocated that spending be reformed and agencies be held accountable via audits until we got a better handle on how our tax dollars are spent before we give raises or increase agency spending.

Remember how the state Health Department diverted more than $30 million in state appropriations and then said they couldn’t make payroll? Then, they laid off almost 200 employees before we discovered the $30 million was there all along, just hidden in a slush fund? That’s just one example of government waste. There’s plenty more where that came from.

Instead of accountability, the citizens got their taxes increased – tax increases that will hurt lower- and middle-income families the most. The tax increase on fuel and cigarettes will push people from Sequoyah County into Fort Smith. This will hurt our local business owners and our economy. While more revenue is great news, I wonder if the audits or accountability of agency spending will be a lost idea. I hope not.

But it’s all too easy to "justify" or use scare tactics to placate state agencies and tax citizens to death.

We are in better financial times for now, but history shows the economy will eventually go into another down cycle. Unfortunately, the tax-and-spend crowd will still be around when this happens. This crowd got exactly what they wanted this time, higher taxes.

July 1, gas, diesel and cigarette taxes went up after a three-fourths majority of the Legislature voted to increase Oklahomans taxes for the first time in 28 years, instead of doing the right thing and holding the receivers of our tax dollars – our state agencies – accountable.

It will be up to you, the taxpayers and citizens of this state, to keep the pressure on lawmakers to answer for how your dollars are spent in the future. God bless you in this fight.

Please contact me with your concerns, issues and input. I truly appreciate it. It is an honor to serve and fight for you as your state representative.

John Bennett represents Oklahoma House District 2. He can be reached at (405) 557-7315 or John.Bennett@okhouse.gov.


Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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