Speaker of the OK House Steele:
“I don't think it represents a tax increase for anybody,” Steele said. “This simply means that there are going to be some that don't get as much money back. It's not that they're going to be paying more — it's that they're not going to be getting as much money back.”
The Norman TranscriptNORMAN — State lawmakers soon will vote on whether to lower state income taxes. Because of state law, it will be very difficult to ever again raise the state income tax if it’s cut, and state income tax is the main source of schools’ funding. There may be a proper time for cutting this already-low tax, but is that time now?
The recession has affected every household in Norman, and the idea of lowering any tax at first blush is appealing.
Yet citizens have consistently indicated they wish for lawmakers to make schools a greater priority, and they are opposed to tax cuts that negatively impact their schools.
Oklahoma is 49th in the nation in student funding. Schools are receiving $253 million less from the state than they were before the recession and, to make matters worse, significant cuts to Oklahoma schools’ federal funding is to occur next school year if Washington gridlock persists, resulting in $600,000 less for Norman Public Schools alone.
State leaders adding a state income tax cut on top of our current school challenges is troubling.
It would be one thing if state income tax reductions spurred economic development, but state economists indicate there’s little correlation. National presenters at a recent economic development summit in Norman stressed that relocation decisions are based on corporate taxes, the education level of the work force and quality of life factors.
A recent State Chamber survey of top business leaders found education to be the single most important element of economic development in Oklahoma. So, let’s discuss as a state how we create jobs and stronger communities through greater investments in our students, not cutting the main source of their schools’ funding.
Some state leaders appear dug in, arguing in recent weeks that schools are fine with $253 million less and higher student populations. Because of supportive parents and dedicated faculty, NPS students continue to achieve, with both high schools last week being ranked by U.S. News and World Report in the top 5 percent of the nation.
Yet we could do so much more at NPS and in all Oklahoma public schools if state leaders didn’t confuse simply maintaining our strained infrastructure with actual progress. Treading water prevents drowning, but it doesn’t get us closer to the shore.
NPS serves 1,000 more students today than it did in 2008, yet it receives $5.5 million less from the state. NPS faculty and staff are working harder with much less to serve students.
Now isn’t the time to cut our schools’ main source of funding. It’s time for parents to really engage with their elected leaders. And, it’s time for elected leaders to do as University of Oklahoma President David Boren and others are urging: Ask themselves what kind of future they want and make the authentic investments in education necessary for all citizens to progress and move Oklahoma forward.
Dr. Joe Siano is superintendent of Norman Public Schools and president-elect of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators.I agree with Dr. Siano 100%! How can you argue with the facts that Oklahoma schools are 49th in funding? It shows in some of the rural schools when you visit their towns that their schools are in bad shape. I cannot wait for Dr. Siano to take over a President of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators. Maybe he can do for Oklahoman schools what he has done for Norman. It is time that Oklahoma took education seriously instead of expecting the status quo which is horrible in some areas of the state and puts their students at a disadvantage if they want to go on to higher education. Been involved with schools for years when my three children were in school and this notion that public schools are horrible is the fault of not only the school district but the PARENTS who let it happen. Demand quality education and you will get it unless you live in the 49th state in funding public schools which says Republicans running the legislature care about as much as the Democrats before them who never considered education a priority.
Then we have this from the bi-partisan Oklahoma Policy Institute:
STATEMENT: Tax deal sets wrong priorities for OklahomaOK Policy Blog - Fri, 05/18/2012 - 15:25
Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to the tax plan from Governor Fallin and Republican legislators:
We are glad to see that Governor Fallin and legislators have backtracked significantly from the most reckless tax cut proposals they put forward earlier in the year. The current plan preserves the income tax, reduces taxes by a fraction of what was originally proposed, and retains important broad-based tax breaks for working families.
However, Senate and House leaders have insisted for months that any tax cuts must be revenue-neutral so as not to impact the budget. This plan falls far short. It would reduce state revenues by over $100 million at a time when schools and other core services are struggling to recover from years of crippling budget cuts. This means fewer teachers and larger class sizes, higher tuition costs, fewer public safety officers, and less resources for those who serve the most vulnerable Oklahomans. It also leaves us on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to oil and gas producers and does nothing to address the skyrocketing costs of these credits.
We are especially disappointed that the plan includes a trigger to automatically ratchet down the top income tax rate in the future. As a bipartisan group of Oklahoma’s most prominent business and civic leaders has stated, deciding tomorrow’s tax cuts today ties the hands of future legislators, makes them less accountable to their constituents, and limits their ability to make the best decisions based on the circumstances that they face.
We hope legislators will reject this flawed proposal and instead produce a plan that does not reduce funding for core services and leaves future tax decisions to future legislatures.
When you read what the tax cuts actually entails from the Tulsa World, you are left with why are they doing this?
OKLAHOMA CITY - About 54 percent of Oklahomans would owe less next year under a recently announced tax-cutting proposal, figures released Friday show.
About 21 percent of taxpayers would see no change, and about 24 percent would see an increase, according to figures compiled by the Oklahoma Tax Commission and released by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
The average reduction in taxes would be $60 in tax year 2013 and $69 in 2014.
Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the measure will increase taxes on those who can least afford it. He said the measure runs counter to State Question 640, which voters approved in 1992. SQ 640 requires that tax increases receive three-fourths support in the House and the Senate, or go to a vote of the people.
"The intention is honorable," Dorman said. "But it does raise taxes on a significant number of people. I think we should go back to the table and come up with something that benefits all Oklahomans."
Lawmakers are playing a shell game, Dorman said, with a measure lowering taxes for the rich and increasing the burden on working-class Oklahomans to keep election-year promises.
Steele said he didn't think the proposal ran counter to SQ 640.
"This represents a net tax decrease," he said.
While some may not get as much back in their refunds, they will not be paying more, the speaker said.