Lawmakers Unlikely to Cut Business Tax Breaks to Boost FY2016 Budget (KWGS)

By Matt Trotter

Although Oklahoma faces a $300 million budget shortfall for next fiscal year, don’t expect lawmakers to slash business tax incentives to close the gap.

Budget summit panelists this week said it’s unrealistic to think the legislature will put any of the state’s dozens of incentives on the chopping block this year. Mark VanLandingham with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber said doing so risks breaking promises already made to businesses.

“If we start doing that, we’ll get a reputation with the site selectors that our state is not good for its commitments, and it will be increasingly difficult to attract any new business to Oklahoma,” he said.

VanLandingham added there are a few credits he considers critical, including Quality Jobs.

State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones said there’s a lot of politics involved, and reviews must be above reproach.

“There are some of these programs that when you look at [them], it’s a no-brainer, but unless you have the resource to look at them in an objective manner, then they’re not going to go away,” he said.

Jones said his office performs objective reviews of the incentives, but his appropriations have dwindled the last few years.

There is plenty of drive for tax credit reform, however. Rep. David Dank says it would make the state more attractive to businesses.

“If we weren’t giving away all this money, we might be able to get rid of the corporate income tax and really compete with states like Texas,” Dank said. “But we need to look at them, and, damnit — if you’ll pardon my expression — help me do that.”

All three men were on a panel of state and economic group officials at Oklahoma Policy Institute’s budget summit this week.

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