Ken Miller's double-dribble on spending, tax credits
Pat McGuigan takes a close look at Oklahoma State Ken Miller's apparent fiscal evolution:
A question that inquiring minds -- at least this one -- seek to answer is this: Is Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller "growing" (moving to the Left) in office?
The question takes me back to my time in the District of Columbia, when observant conservatives often fretted over the tendency of friends to shift slowly (in some cases rapidly) to the political Left, earning words of praise from The Washington Post and other keepers of the liberal flame....
Indeed, the Tax Foundation, a respected 75-year-old think tank, actually concluded Oklahoma leads the nation in state-government spending growth over the past decade. Yikes! That spending growth information is often obscured by the state's comparative economic boom, especially since the start of the Great Recession.
Some political leaders are not pleased when this spending reality is reported, but it's curious that state Treasurer Ken Miller is among them, as he commented recently: "Those who paint current officeholders as the biggest spenders in state history are being disingenuous."
I'm not surprised that Mr. Miller would be a bit squishy on fiscal issues. Recall that as a legislator Ken Miller supported the expansion of Quality Jobs Act tax credits to pro basketball players, even as the owners of the future Oklahoma City Thunder were arguing in a Seattle courtroom that NBA franchises have no overall positive economic impact on a city. I wrote at the time:
The idea [behind the Quality Jobs Act] is that these companies are bringing dollars and good jobs into the state, and the resulting increase in payroll and consumer spending will bring in more than enough new revenue to the state treasury to compensate for the payroll rebates.
An NBA team doesn't fit those criteria, no matter how much it may boost our state's self-esteem. Instead of bringing new revenue in from out of state, a pro basketball team will merely reapportion the way Oklahoma City residents spend their disposable income.
Study after study shows that a major league sports team doesn't grow the local economic pie; it simply competes with other entertainment and leisure businesses for a share of the same pie. The Sonics owners made that very case in a Seattle courtroom, as part of their effort to break the lease on Seattle's Key Arena, arguing that the team had a negligible impact on the local economy.
Worse, Miller agreed to a special exemption that allowed the team to collect the tax credits even if the salaries aren't taxable in Oklahoma. I decided then and there to make the bill that extended the Quality Jobs Act tax credits to an NBA team a litmus test for future elections:
None of the supporters of SB 1819 are likely to pay come election day -- the benefits are concentrated and the costs are diffuse -- but I will be keeping this vote in mind should any of them seek higher office. How someone voted on SB 1819 is an indication of that legislator's susceptibility to lobbyist pressure and view of the proper role of government in economic development.
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