The Usual Drill

Image of T.W. Shannon

Let’s be clear that House Speaker T.W. Shannon’s insistence the state continue to give costly taxpayer handouts to the oil and gas industry as the state faces budget constraints could have a major detrimental effect on the overall quality of life here.

Education funding has declined to what can only be perceived as catastrophic levels since 2008. The state’s prisons are dangerously understaffed. Many state workers have gone without raises for seven years. There are myriad of mental health initiatives that need to be implemented on the state level.

But Shannon, a Lawton Republican, wants to make permanent $175 million in tax breaks for horizontal oil and gas drilling. The tax credits are set to expire in 2015. According to the Tulsa World, Shannon recently said, “Some have suggested we should raise this tax or allow it to expire in order to bring more money into the general fund and grow government. I don't believe in the tax-more, spend-more approach.”

This type of conservative reasoning defies logic primarily because it’s merely an ideological statement and sloganeering. But it also ignores a basic reality: Oil and gas companies will drill here no matter what. That’s a given, and when there’s no more fossil fuels to suck out of the ground in Oklahoma, these companies will leave the state and never return, leaving only earthquakes and environmental damage in their wake.

Of course, Shannon has other motivations to argue his case. Oil and gas interests, including the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and Chesapeake Energy, have been major contributors to his campaign funding. Shannon is up for reelection this year.

Meanwhile, Shannon will continue to push for income tax cuts next session, according to media reports, even though revenue predictions are not getting met on a monthly basis. The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently threw out last year’s tax cut bill because it violated the state’s constitutional single-subject rule for legislation.

Tax breaks for oil and gas companies along with stagnant or lowered funding for education. This conservative model of governance ultimately only creates more socioeconomic problems for the state. It’s really a no-brainer.

Under Republican dominance, Oklahoma has quickly become a shining example of failed conservative ideology. Despite some state leaders’ rosy rhetoric about the state’s economic development, Oklahoma faces chronic problems in many areas, precipitated by underfunding for education, health issues and corrections. Costly and unneeded tax breaks for oil and gas companies only make it worse.