Blogs

Windfall Arguments: Oil, Natural Gas Industry Here Given Tax Breaks, Too

A recent editorial in The Oklahoman discussing tax incentives for the state’s growing wind energy sector fails to note the hypocrisy that one of the leading opponents of the incentives is Harold Hamm, the chief executive officer of Continental Resources, a local oil and gas company.

The billionaire Hamm’s role as a leading member of the so-called Windfall Coalition, which opposes any tax incentives for generating wind power here is as blunt as it gets in the business and political worlds. In essence it’s a case of old-guard fossil fuel producers against new-wave renewable energy creators.

It’s dirty energy versus clean energy. It’s global warming naysayers against environmentalists. It’s the planet destroyers against the planet savers.

What matters even more is that the growth of wind energy is growing exponentially throughout the world as the negative impact of manmade climate change becomes a reality. According to the Wind Energy Foundation, wind power now generates 4 percent of the electricity in the United States, and that number is growing.

All that apparently doesn’t mean much to or has yet to sink into the minds of members of The Oklahoman editorial board, but it’s the most obvious symbol in the debate of ending tax incentives for companies that produce electricity using wind turbines in Oklahoma. Oil and gas companies get tremendously huge breaks on gross production taxes here, which has contributed to the state’s fiscal problems that now include a predicted $1.3 billion budget shortfall next year.

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Vote Yes On SQ 779 To Save, Support Education

A record breaking initiative petition drive will almost certainly place a measure on the November ballot that, if approved, would raise the state sales tax by one cent to generate money exclusively for education on an annual basis.

The Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office will start going through the more than 300,000 signatures—a record number for a statewide initiative petition drive—today, according to news reports, and then State Question 779 can officially be placed on the ballot.

SQ 779 is an important, history-making and education-saving measure that deserves support. It will raise $615 million annually for schools and ensure teachers receive a $5,000 raise. Some of the money will be allocated for higher education and vocational schools as well. Oklahoma has cut education more than any state in the nation since 2008, and SQ 779 will mitigate some but not all of the damage.

Before I get into why Oklahomans should vote for SQ 779, I want to address two arguments made against it: (1) Sales taxes are regressive because low-income people spend a larger percentage of their money on taxed purchases, and (2) sales taxes are already too high in Oklahoma.

Those who champion SQ 779, which include University of Oklahoma President David Boren, absolutely know that sales taxes are regressive, but the Oklahoma Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin have failed miserably to find the money to fund our education systems. It’s highly unlikely, even unfathomable, they will act to roll back recent income tax cuts implemented over the last decade or so. The only alternative to SQ 779 is to do nothing. Among states, Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil spending rates. Teacher salaries here rank 48th in nation. Cuts made to education in recent years and anticipated cuts this coming fiscal year mean hundreds of teaching positions will be cut.

The one penny will also benefit low-income school children the most and future legislation could offer an education tax rebate to low-income families and completely eliminate sales taxes on groceries.

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Oklahoma Street Guns: No Training, No Permit, No Problem

It’s highly disappointing that another legislative bill loosening what few gun restrictions we have here to a new ridiculous level is moving through the Oklahoma House and Senate by huge voting margins.

It’s a sign that conservatives, who dominate state government, still remain confident they’re empowered politically enough to pass extremist legislation, which doesn’t bode well for what might happen to next year’s budget or even what might happen in the upcoming November election.

The state faces a $1.3 billion shortfall for next fiscal year and some state agencies have already taken steep cuts because of a revenue failure this year. Higher education, for example, has already had its overall state allocation reduced by $112 million and faces more cuts next year.

But if you can afford to buy a gun in this economic downturn caused by conservative ideology, well, it looks like you’re going to be able to walk around and display it openly even if you haven’t had one bit of training or even have a permit.

House Bill 3098 easily passed the Senate on a 37-9 vote Wednesday after earlier passing the House on 73-15 vote. The bill, in its present form, would allow anyone 21 or older who hasn’t been convicted of a felony crime to openly carry a gun without receiving the training required for concealed carry and without getting a permit.

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