SEEMS like every liberal commentary we read these days about state government takes a swipe at the pending income tax cut. If only Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders wouldn't cut taxes, so many programs wouldn't suffer!
The list of such programs is long and includes headliners such as common schools, higher ed, corrections, highways and social services, but also a host of “lesser” programs. The argument goes that anything the state funds will be hurt by a tax cut. But according to the folks making this argument, these same programs were suffering mightily when the top income tax rate was above 6 percent.
Now that it's headed below 5 percent, the end is surely nigh for government programs. Well, not quite. Tax-cut supporters point to revenue gains after recent cuts. Budget reductions in the recent recession resulted from a poor economy, not tax policy. Just ask the high-tax states that made dramatic cuts while also raising taxes.
Another argument against the GOP tax cut centers on the paltry amount that average taxpayers will realize. It is a paltry amount — say $50 to $100 per household — but this ignores what taxpayers have been saving since the tax-cutting began and what they'll save over the long term. If the short-term paltry argument is valid, so is the long-term not-so-paltry argument.
Still, we won't make the case that the latest cut is essential. But it is small and its implementation is deferred. Some of the saved income tax money will be spent for goods and thus generate sales tax revenue.
The anti-tax cut Oklahoma Policy Institute released a survey Tuesday showing a lack of support for the latest cut. The survey invoked class warfare and used loaded questions designed to push a particular response. No surprise. Advocacy group polls, whether left or right in nature, always do this. The survey-based conclusion from OK Policy is that Oklahomans don't support a tax cut that will really help only the “rich” while cutting funds for education by tens of millions of dollars.
Yet last November, voters handily approved a property tax cap and a state question exempting intangible property from taxation. OK Policy and the education establishment vigorously opposed these measures using the same arguments — benefits to the “rich” and cuts in education funding.
In polling that matters much more than any advocacy group-sponsored opinion survey, Oklahomans opted for lower taxes despite the consequences. Two years earlier, 81 percent of voters rejected a massive money grab proposed by the teacher union.
Here's a suggestion for those opposed to the tax cut: Send the paltry amount you save directly to a school or public school foundation. Imagine what those paltry savings of $50 to $100 per household could do if pooled for direct support rather than sent to NE 23 and Lincoln! This is the same suggestion we had for those opposed to the Bush-era tax cuts that supposedly helped only the “rich” and devastated the federal budget.
They had the option of returning the money to Washington. There's no evidence that many of them did so, but at least Secretary of State John Kerry (among others) will forgo 5 percent of his federal salary. The Weekly Standard reports that Kerry could legally work for $1 a year and give up his entire $183,500 annual pay. Instead, one of the richest men in America will keep all but $9,175 of his salary, the magazine notes, thereby making “a sacrifice that, by any measure, isn't really a sacrifice.”
In a word, Kerry's generous giveback is paltry — chump change for someone who's benefitted so much from GOP tax cuts.