Oklahomans favor reducing the state income tax, while balancing the budget

by Wesley Burt, SoonerPoll

Published 12-Feb-2011

While the governor and legislature have been strongly focused on state budget deficits, a recent SoonerPoll found that essentially half of Oklahomans, 49.8 percent, support a proposal to lower the Oklahoma State income tax rate. The poll found that only 37.4 percent of respondents opposed lowering the income tax rate while 12.8 percent of respondents remain undecided.

Respondents were asked: “A proposal has been made to reduce the Oklahoma state-income-tax rate. Some people oppose the idea. They say it would result in less revenue for state government, and that state government already lacks sufficient funding to meet its important obligations. Other people favor the idea. They say it would put more money in the pockets of Oklahomans, thus boosting the economy and even offsetting some of the revenue loss. Which view comes closest to your own?”

Bill Shapard, CEO of SoonerPoll, said, “Our goal with this question was to see how the public felt about tax cuts, and ask it in a way that put the current budget shortfall into perspective at the same time for the respondent. The results show that a plurality of Oklahomans want our elected leaders to include tax cuts while they’re balancing the budget.”

SoonerPoll.com was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 508 likely voters from Jan. 24 – Feb. 3. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.35 percent.

When support for the proposal is broken down by party, it is revealed that 54.9 percent of Republicans favor the reductions compared to just 45.1 percent of Democrats. Similarly, 58.1 percent of conservatives support the proposal compared to only 37.5 percent of liberals.

“It appears that Oklahoma voters understand that income tax rates matter in regards to maintaining Oklahoma’s economic competitiveness,” said OCPA economist Scott Moody.

“It is no surprise that Oklahoma is now seeing an influx of people from California, which has one of the highest income tax rates in the country. Lower income tax rates also help small businesses who can use that extra money to invest and create new jobs. Therefore, cutting income tax rates is not a zero-sum game as opponents proclaim since, in the long-run, lower tax rates spur people to move to Oklahoma or businesses to invest which is good for everyone, including government coffers.”

“The results are not surprising,” added Brandon Dutcher, vice president for policy at OCPA. “They confirm the message Oklahoma voters sent on November 2: ‘We want less government and more freedom.’”

In the November elections, Oklahoma Republicans maintained their majority in both houses of the Legislature and swept every secondary elected office by winning seven statewide races. Newly elected Republican State Senator David Holt of Oklahoma City recently introduced Senate Bill 70, which is designed to lower the state income tax by 1 percent over a ten year period.

Dutcher says Oklahomans’ current tax burden is too heavy. “The average Oklahoman has to work more than three months a year just to earn enough money to pay the federal, state, and local tax collectors,” Dutcher said. “This tax burden is inappropriate for a free people.”

When the results are broken down by respondents’ income level the highest level of support comes from the lowest income levels. Of those making less than $35,000 a year, 56.8 percent favor the proposal compared to 52.4 percent of those making more than $75,000 a year.

Interestingly, those making between $35,000 and $75,000 a year, generally accepted as Oklahoma’s middle class, showed the lowest level of support for the proposal. Though only 47.6 percent of middle class level earners were in favor of the proposal, it still represents a plurality of respondents in that range.