Patrick B. McGuigan
Thirty Oklahoma business executives and community leaders/activists recently submitted to state officials a joint letter opposing adoption of “tax trigger mechanisms” to lower income tax rates as the state economy grows, CapitolBeatOK has learned.
The open letter to Governor Mary Fallin, Speaker of the House Kris Steele of Shawnee and Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman was dated May 8. The letter was received in the governor’s office May 9, according to a time stamp on the document.
A copy of the letter was provided to CapitolBeatOK in response to an information request submitted to Fallin’s communications director.
The letter bore the names of some of Oklahoma’s best-known citizens, including conservative-leaning businessmen like Tom Ward (Sandridge Energy, Oklahoma City) and Larry Mocha (a Tulsa manufacturer), and philanthropists George Kaiser and Stacy Schusterman, both of Tulsa.
The letter stated, “We are of diverse opinions as to whether cutting Oklahoma’s top income tax rate is the right policy at this time. However, we are all in strong agreement that this Legislature should not bind the hands of future Legislatures by enacting a tax trigger.”
Tax trigger mechanisms have been a feature of recent steps reducing the income tax levy in Oklahoma, in bills signed by Governors Brad Henry, a Democrat, and Frank Keating, a Republican.
The writers asserted enactment of tax triggers would hinder the state’s ability to respond to “unforeseen circumstances, such as natural disasters or an abrupt economic downturn.” The authors cited University of Oklahoma President David Boren saying, “We have no crystal ball. That is why we should examine tax and budget decisions on an annual basis. That is the conservative approach.”
The full text of the letter, and the list of names on it, follows:
May 8, 2012
An Open Letter to Governor Mary Fallin, Speaker of the House Kris Steele and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman:
As business executives and community leaders concerned with Oklahoma’s fiscal stability, we urge you to reject proposals to adopt tax trigger mechanisms that would automatically lower Oklahoma’s income tax in future years based on future growth in state revenue.
We are of diverse opinions as to whether cutting Oklahoma’s top income tax rate is the right policy at this time. However, we are all in strong agreement that this Legislature should not bind the hands of future Legislatures by enacting a tax trigger.
It is the responsibility of each Legislature to make decisions based on the state’s needs at the time. Once tax cuts are written into law, it will be almost impossible, constitutionally or politically, to change course, whatever the situation.
Enacting future tax cuts now would especially hinder our ability to address future unforeseen circumstances, such as natural disasters or an abrupt economic downturn. As The Oklahoman stated in a recent editorial, “Income tax triggers are a one-way ticket to lower taxes no matter what happens to the economy.” University of Oklahoma President David Boren notes that, “We have no crystal ball. That is why we should examine tax and budget decisions on an annual basis. That is the conservative approach.”
Deciding tomorrow’s tax cuts today would tie the hands of future legislators, make them less accountable to their constituents and limit their ability to make the best decisions based on the circumstances that they face. We sincerely hope you will reject the concept of triggers that would mandate future tax changes.
Bob Ross Tom Ward Kirk Humphreys
Mike Neal Francis Rooney John W. Gibson
Bill Cameron Ken Lackey Chet Cadieux
Henry Zarrow Don Millican George Kaiser
Ken Fergeson Stacy Schusterman Melvin Moran
Stan Lybarger Meredith Siegfried Becky J. Frank
Fredrick Drummond Jody Parker Alan Armstrong
Ford Drummond David Adams Guy L. Berry
Larry Mocha Ken Levit Robert C. Poe
Vince LoVoi Renzi Stone Jeff Dunn