The One Oklahoma Coalition characterizes State Question 744 as a "return to the corrupt government practice of automatically earmarking billions of our tax dollars for a single special interest group with little or no oversight by taxpayers."
Actually, that's what the Legislature does now.
Every year, every session your Oklahoma Legislature ignores hundreds of millions of dollars of potential revenue — money that should be invested in health, education, transportation and public safety — for favored businesses and "clients." For example, investor and corporate tax breaks exploded from $50 million in 2006 to over $210 million in 2008. In addition to that staggering amount, the oil and gas industry has received another $350 million-plus in tax giveaways since 2004. That's over a half-billion dollars that could be invested in our schools.
Taken as a whole, special interest handouts in Oklahoma have increased at a far greater rate than direct state appropriations. This sleight-of-hand form of government spending exceeds 75 percent of Oklahoma's annual $6.6 billion appropriation.
The legislative budget undergoes an arduous and open lengthy process. By contrast, tax expenditures are often client or donor driven, financial benefits to favored businesses without the transparency of the appropriations process, or any cost-benefit review. They are government distortions that reduce capital investments in other business sectors that may have larger rates of return and in public investments vital to our competitiveness for the future — such as education.
The One Oklahoma Coalition tells us we can't afford State Question 744. The coalition resorts to scare tactics such as prison closure and road collapse while ignoring hundreds of millions of savings that could be secured by simply ending special interest treatment through the tax code and redirecting that money to education. Passage of State Question 744 will require the Legislature to do just that. And it is high time we did.
If the six states surrounding Oklahoma are able to adequately invest in education, my bet is that Oklahoma can too. We want our legislators to represent citizens, not clients. To paraphrase the One Oklahoma Coalition, all we need to do is end the "corrupt government practice of automatically earmarking billions of our tax dollars for special interest groups with little or no oversight by taxpayers."