"What Are Other States Doing?"

Jul 7, 2017

Louisiana’s lawmakers may have proven resistant to tax increase proposals, but they're always asking, “What are other states doing?”

Thanks to the NPR State Governance Project (in which Capitol Access’s reporters participate), Joe Wertz of State Impact Oklahoma can tell us.


WERTZ:

Years of Republican-led tax cuts have taken a big bite out of Oklahoma's budget. The recent downturn in crude prices has also starved revenue streams that power this oil-rich state.

This year, the state faced a nearly $900-million budget gap. State troopers had their mileage limited, and many schools are open only four days a week. Educators, business leaders and public demonstrators flocked to the Capitol and rallied against funding cuts, calling out at their legislators, “Shame!” and “Shame on you!”

Some of the Republicans who control Oklahoma's capitol responded to the outcry by supporting tax hikes, which conservatives here have long campaigned against. This turnabout is telling. Here's Governor Mary Fallin shortly after her election in 2011:

“Our first priority will be to balance the state budget without raising taxes,” Fallin told the legislature then.

The situation has changed dramatically. This year, Fallin, a Republican, threatened to veto any budget without tax increases.

Lawmakers heeded her call, and Republicans approved tax and fee hikes. They also repealed a pending income tax cut and effectively raised taxes on oil and gas production.

“In Oklahoma and other states, the tax cuts have not paid for themselves,” observes Richard Auxier, a researcher at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

In Kansas, a GOP-dominated legislature overrode a veto by Republican governor Sam Brownback to cancel steep tax cuts and raise a billion dollars.

“It's not an easy vote. I mean Kansas - it took them three times to get enough votes to override the governor's veto,” Auxier says.

I'm Joe Wertz in Oklahoma City.