Kevin Calvey: "Tax Increases Just Cover Up Corruption"

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Yesterday, a proposal intended to increase taxes on beer, cigarettes, and gasoline and to increase the gross production tax on the oil industry to fill Oklahoma's budget gap failed to get the three-quarters majority in the State House required to put the taxes into effect without a vote of the people.

State Rep. Kevin Calvey, one of the 29 representatives who voted against the plan, yesterday called on his fellow legislators to plug the current spending gap in the Oklahoma budget with available cash and resist the urge to raise taxes. Adding revenue, he says, allows bad actors in state government to hide corruption and mismanagement, and he offers some specific recommendation. (Emphasis added below.)

Tax Increases Just Cover Up Corruption

Last spring, Dr. Terry Cline, Governor Fallin's then-Secretary of Health, berated me for refusing to vote for tax increases. Last week, Dr. Cline was forced to resign when apparent fraud and/or mismanagement was uncovered at the Department of Health.

The heads of two other agencies which support tax increases are also under investigation.
Makes one wonder: if we had passed all the tax increases last year, would this corruption have remained hidden? I suspect so. The additional money would have filled accounts emptied by mismanagement.

I suspect we've only seen the tip of the iceberg of exposing corruption in state spending, because state agencies have not been independently audited in years!

State government insiders are lying to those who serve vulnerable Oklahomans, telling them that tax increases are necessary to preserve services, when there is enough available cash to plug the current $214 million gap without any tax increase. These lies cause needless anxiety to the vulnerable, causing them to pressure legislators for tax increases.

Perhaps now we are seeing the real reason for the increasingly desperate attempts by government insiders to raise your taxes. The insiders need tax increases to cover up the corruption.

The insiders have raised taxes by $500 million these last two years. Instead of more tax increases, we should audit state agencies to expose corruption and waste. Even before auditing, we can identify more than enough potential savings to fill the current gap, cover next year's expected shortfall, and raise teacher pay. Here's a sampling:

  • Roll back Big Wind subsidies. Over a billion of your tax dollars have subsidized corporate welfare for huge wind companies, often foreign-owned, which provide almost no jobs. (By contrast, the oil and gas industry employs over 150,000 and pays 25% of all Oklahoma taxes).
  • Trim university administration costs. Oklahoma's universities have administrative costs 70% higher than the national average. Reducing administration to the national average saves $374 million annually.
  • Shift more education dollars to teachers. Who got the money from House Bill 1017 and the lottery that "saved" education? Administrators and other non-teacher costs. Rolling back this noninstructional staffing surge saves $373 million annually, to raise teacher pay by $8000.
  • Increase low-income scholarships. A recent OCU study shows every $1 spent on the Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit leverages private donations to save $1.24 for the state budget, and produces $2.58 for education. Increasing the cap on this credit saves taxpayers millions and helps low-income children.
  • Reserve TSET funds for Medicaid. The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) spends money on ads for smoke-free strip clubs and drag shows, among other waste. Reserving TSET for Medicaid saves at least $85 million annually.
  • Criminal justice reform. I'm tough on crime- I prosecuted terrorists for the Army in Iraq. Let's be tough on crime in a cost-efficient way. Too many Oklahomans are jailed for what amounts to debt collection, often for minor offenses.

If we raise taxes now, we will never expose the corruption or cure the state's spending addiction.

MORE: State Rep. Tess Teague, another vote against yesterday's tax bill, but who voted for an increase in the gross production tax last week, explained her vote in a press release:

I voted against it because this was not the right way to fix the problem. Because I knocked doors for a year and half and I know that House District 101 does not want more taxation. Because I believe in standing firm in my principles and 65% of this district sent me to the Capitol because they believed I would do just that....

Many people think that this was our last option and that since this failed, several critical services and programs will end. Let me be clear, that is not true. Please do not fall prey to fear-mongering. There are other options and we will get them passed.

‚ÄčLast week the House passed a series of bills that would use cash on hand to fund DHS, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority fully until April, giving us more time to work and preventing any cuts. The Senate has refused to hear those bills and instead sent us an unconstitutional, log-rolled bill in the form of a $500 million tax increase package. Does that make sense? Right now we're dealing with state agencies who have committed fraud and mismanagement with tax payer dollars, yet instead of conducting the necessary audits and finding efficiencies in government....we're going to our citizens with our hands out saying "Give us more!!" before addressing those issues. I refuse to punish the citizens of this state by making them pay for a problem they did not create.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 9, 2017 8:05 AM.

2017 Tulsa election: Proposition 6: City employees allowed to campaign was the previous entry in this blog.

2017 Tulsa election: Proposition 7: Ineffective spending constraint is the next entry in this blog.

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