While some state leaders continue to discuss making top-down cuts to the income tax or eliminating it entirely, a new OK Policy issue brief shows why that policy is ill-advised.
Before the economic downturn, the income tax brought in more than $2.5 billion a year. In FY 2010, it made up about one-third of all state tax collections. It is the single largest source of support for education, health care, transportation, public safety, and other necessities. The state could not provide basic, essential services without income tax revenue unless other taxes were drastically increased.
The issue brief shows that shifting to greater reliance on other taxes would disadvantage local business, create more risk of revenues not being adequate to needs, and put a disproportionate burden on low- and moderate-income Oklahoma families. Contrary to the claims of its critics, Oklahoma’s income tax is not a hindrance to the state’s business climate or a spur for people to move out of state. In fact, Oklahoma is out-competing most states that lack an income tax.
After three years of repeated cuts to the state budget, the state has fallen further behind in funding teacher salaries and benefits, staffing our prisons and juvenile facilities, and ensuring the safety of children at risk of abuse and neglect, among other vital functions. We face growing obligations to fund our public pensions, protect our water system, repair our crumbling infrastructure, and take care of an aging population. In this context, cutting the income tax is the wrong priority for Oklahoma’s future.