Although our top income tax rate in Oklahoma, at 5.25 percent, is in the middle of the pack, we face tough competition from our neighbors. Colorado and New Mexico assess lower income taxes (4.9 and 4.63 percent, respectively) and Texas doesn't have one at all. Given their low tax burdens, it's unsurprising that these states have grown faster than Oklahoma over the past decade.
Two other border states are full steam ahead in their tax reforms. Kansas consolidated its tax brackets and cut the top personal income tax rate from 6.45 to 4.9 percent, while Missouri aims to cut its income tax entirely, replacing it with a broad-based sales tax.
States don't enact policy changes in a vacuum. To behave as if they do makes Oklahoma look less competitive. If we don't address our high income tax burden here in Oklahoma, we risk falling behind our lower-tax neighbors.
Our lawmakers in Oklahoma City would be wise to ignore politically charged calls to raise taxes on top earners and instead focus on creating a welcoming environment for economic growth. Oklahoma could benefit economically — and, consequently, attract more tax revenue — if we fostered a low-tax environment that allows people and businesses to keep more of their hard-earned money. It's common sense!
Jolly is Oklahoma state director of Americans For Prosperity.