Ken Fergesen, a resident of Altus, is Chairman of NBC Oklahoma, and is active in banking, farming, civic, social and cultural organizations.. He is a past President of the State Chamber of Commerce.
I am really concerned about our State. The drum beat at 23rd and Lincoln to eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax has me worried on many levels. I’m afraid that I haven’t paid as close attention to the arguments until a representative from Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs spoke at the Altus Rotary meeting the other day. That was when I realized that the proponents of eliminating the income tax were really single-purposed: ‘it’s all about business.’
I am also very pro-business and want our Oklahoma to have a healthy business climate. I saw former Oklahoma Congressman Dave McCurdy recently and it reminded me of going with him to California and recruiting businesses to expand or move to Oklahoma, and preferably to his district. When we called on CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, their first questions were about quality of life, not about tax rates. They were concerned about educational and cultural opportunities for their employees. Of course it is important to have a competitive business environment, and we do. Oklahoma has a very favorable tax burden, tax incentives and cost of doing business, and a low cost of living for its citizens.
When I chaired the Oklahoma State Chamber, I traveled all across Oklahoma and visited many of its towns in every county. I couldn’t help but notice communities that have flourishing arts and cultural activities were on the move, business was being done and cash registers were ringing. At the time those observations were purely anecdotal, but now there are economic impact studies that prove my observations.
I now chair an organization, Americans for the Arts, that completes an arts impact study every three years. In their latest study the results of the non-profit arts and culture ventures are 5.7 million employees, $12.6 billion in federal taxes, $17 billion in state and local taxes, and $166.7 billion in total economic impact. Just in Oklahoma there are 7,669 creative industries with 24,490 employees.
All of this is at risk without a little help from our State, and the only way the State can help is by taxing it citizens. I believe that we want to be the best that we can be, that we want to have the highest quality of life that will help us to be the place where we can enjoy the fruits of our labor.
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