BY DAVID PERRYMAN
My family included several soldiers and sailors who were members of the “Greatest Generation.” Most have passed on but their stories remain.
For instance, my mother’s first cousin was a nurse who was serving at the Borden Army Hospital in Chickasha. While there she encountered a handsome young Army private who was recuperating from an injury that he had received. Her name was Dean and his was Clint.
After a few weeks, Clint had recovered sufficiently to go back to active duty and they continued to communicate. When the war ended, the reunited and were married in short order. Clint was eager to provide for his new bride but the hundreds of thousands of returning GI’s made the job market tight and very competitive.
Clint worked odd jobs and was able to supplement the family’s income enough to be able to purchase an old car. Finally, one day, through a friend, Clint received an offer for a full time construction job in the next town about 15 miles away.
Early the next day, Clint got up about 5 a.m. so that he would not be late on the first day of work. He fired up the car, backed out of the drive and discovered to his horror that the transmission was frozen in Reverse. Needless to say, the stakes were too high so Clint drove to work backwards that 15 miles.
This story has been told many times with slight variation. But the gist is always the same. Clint did what it took to provide for his family time and time again.
The Oklahoma Legislature needs to do what it takes to make Oklahoma better for its citizens. While driving backward is not recommended, we could begin by rolling back tax cuts that have been handed out to the oil and gas industry and high wage earners.
Income tax cuts from 7% to 5% for high wage earners over the past ten years have cost the state more than $1.4 billion per year. That amount alone would more than pay for the teacher pay increase, support personnel pay increase, restoration of classroom funding cuts, state employee pay increase and health care funding called for in the “Together We’re Stronger” budget plan submitted by Oklahoma teachers.
During that same time, Gross production taxes on oil and gas production has been cut from 7% to 2%. Those cuts cost the state $402 million per year on horizontal wells and $59 million per year on other wells. When the depletion allowance that lets oil companies reduce taxable income by up to 22% is added in, the incentives and tax breaks equal around $480 million per year.
State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, a Republican candidate for governor, said it best, “If citizens of Oklahoma have to pay a 5% income tax rate, why shouldn’t oil companies have to at least pay 5% GPT?”
There are other plans that will provide the necessary funding. There are some that will not. The Step Up plan which was engineered to keep gross production tax at an unreasonably low rate was a bad plan. Oil companies and their representatives marketed it as a way to get teachers a $5,000 raise. Unfortunately, it took money out of teachers left pocket to put it in their right and totally neglected all the other costs of educating children.
The teachers’ Together We’re Stronger plan is a great plan and it needs to be paid for.
We don’t need to follow the Step Up Plan that shifts the tax burden from oil companies and those with high income to working Oklahomans.
We need to look in the rearview mirror and return the gross production tax rate to 7% and the income tax rate on persons earning more than $200,000 per year to at least 5.5%.
— David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House