Open Door Policy: Demand Accountability with State-Funded Business Tax Credits
by Joe Dorman
My condolences to those who have suffered loss of employment. Unemployment has been increasing across Oklahoma with the downturn in the energy sector. Our state ranks last in second-quarter personal income growth of the 50 states, as reported by the Oklahoman. This is not the same economy we heard about last year in the campaigns.
Several state programs that provide assistance are also available. The Oklahoma Employment Securities Commission assists those who are trying to regain employment. To submit a claim, you can either file online at https://unemployment.state.ok.us/ or you can call for assistance at 1-800-555-1554. The Oklahoma Career Technology system offers training programs to help individuals enhance their skills for job placement. Contact your local Career Tech to ask about financial aid for classes. I am also thankful that my current job allows me to assist those who are seeking employment.
Though reductions in the energy sector are a part of the problem, much of the blame can go squarely back to the elected officials at the State Capitol with their choices of business development policies. Rather than pursue successful ideas, such as the student loan forgiveness program for the aerospace engineering sector to recruit diversified jobs, the Republican leadership has instead chosen to cut income taxes for the wealthiest Oklahomans, reduce drilling taxes and offer tax credits to major corporations.
I must ask why are these companies laying off employees rather than looking at their expenditures? One company last week offered their suite at sporting events to an auction and another chose to retain naming rights on a building in downtown Oklahoma City instead of preserving jobs.
We’re often told that government should be run like a business, but these businesses would be bankrupt if not for state government bailouts through tax incentives and credits that are paid for by your tax dollars.
The State of Oklahoma gives myriad tax credits to companies that pay millions of dollars in salaries to executives who are simultaneously laying off middle-income employees. They take government-subsidized dollars to make poor choices for frivolous items for their own pleasure. We hear Republicans demand that schools slash administrative expenses – so why don’t they make that same demand of CEOs of companies that receive tax-subsidized business credits?
OU President David Boren recently proposed a statewide sales tax of one cent to fund education programs. His reason is that Oklahoma has ranked dead last in the United States in education spending for kindergarten through 12th grade since 2008. Whether you agree with his proposal or not, you should realize that something needs to change. We cannot succeed unless we invest in our infrastructure. Oklahoma has consistently made deep cuts in services over the past few years while reducing taxes and spending substantially more on tax credits.
If you want to have a state that demands accountability, start by demanding accountability from your elected officials. Ask them tough questions and make sure you vote for those who will develop a better and diversified business model for Oklahoma.
Joe Dorman served House District 65 as a State Representative for 12 years and was the 2014 Democratic nominee for Governor of Oklahoma. Currently he is the Community Outreach Director for Heart Mobile.