Some Oklahoma big shots convened secretly recently to propose a plan for fixing the GOP-bungled state finances. Touted as “some of Oklahoma’s most influential citizens,” by The Oklahoman – long an apologist for corporate welfare – Step Up Oklahoma offered much of what we’ve seen during repeated unsuccessful legislative sessions. The main carrot to entice its acceptance is the promotion of a $5,000 raise for teachers.
The most prominent feature of the proposal – denoting the “we got ours” mentality of these OKligarchs – is the unequal distribution of the tax burden. Again, we see the proposal to add $1.50 to every pack of cigarettes sold. The bigshots say such a tax will raise $243.9 million during the first year. Two days after The Oklahoman gave ballyhooey coverage to this plan, it ran an article by Michaela Marx Wheatley of Brandinsight which pointed out that “Oklahoma’s smoking rate is at an all-time low with just 19.6 percent of Oklahoma adults smoking….”
Last fall, we established that the economic demographic of smokers was weighted heavily in the lower income brackets. So, 19.6 percent of our poorer neighbors should cough up $243.9 million to fund state government.
Meanwhile, The Oklahoman – which has continued to shill “coalition” proposals as if from Mt. Sinai — noted the plan would “Raise the starting gross production tax for all wells currently taxed at 2 percent to 4 percent and raise the starting gross production tax for all future wells to 4 percent for 36 months and then tax at 7 percent, which is projected to raise $133 million during the first full year of operation.”
Yep, some of the state’s “most influential citizens” think it just swell for 19.6 percent of our poorer neighbors to kick in $243.9 million to the state coffers while our largest industry – whose preferential legislative treatment triggered this mess – ponies up $110.9 million less. Nor is there a provision to equalize the “sin tax” contribution for smoking cigarettes that has non-smoking Oklahomans kicking in our fair share.
Ms. Wheatley’s article consistently cites obesity as a health risk on par with smoking: “Tobacco use and obesity are the primary risk factors for cancer and cardiovascular disease, which are the leading causes of death among Oklahomans.” We established that the $1.50 cigarette tax was roughly a 30 percent price hike. By cutting that in half, say, and imposing another 15 percent tax on all ice cream and soda pop sales to discourage sugar consumption, everyone in the state could contribute to the cause. I know that fair taxation is a foreign concept to some, especially the wealthy – almost as unthinkable as the 7 percent gross production tax that we once had and which would put us in line with other petroleum producing states.
It was announced Monday that one percent of the world’s population holds 82 percent of its wealth, Oklahoma’s Greedhead Coalition and its minions seem determined to skew prosperity even further in favor of the rich.
To do so is just good bidness. To point it out, heretical.
(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)