MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

July 13, 2013

Reconsider tax breaks, incentives


Associated Press

— It’s difficult to understand the reasoning behind giving tax breaks and credits to the oil and gas industry when the industry continues to return record profits.

Tax breaks handed out in 2010 have cost the state $321 million last fiscal year, Gov. Mary Fallin’s finance director said last week.

Secretary of Finance and Revenue Preston Doerflinger said legislators should re-examine the situation next session.

Doerflinger said tax rebates and refunds for drilling totaled $173 million and state tax credits, delayed for two years during the economic downturn, cost Oklahoma an additional $148 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Much of Oklahoma’s economy is tied to the oil and gas industry.

There should be some consideration given to the industries that propel our economy.

A flourishing oil and gas industry means jobs. Jobs mean more state income tax and sales tax revenue for our communities.

But it is difficult to accept the premise when oil and gas companies continue to report record profits every quarter.

This comes when the economy has not improved significantly for many Oklahomans.

Some of the incentives were created in the 1990s to encourage horizontal drilling.

The practice, now commonplace, was experimental and costly before the turn of the century.

Doerflinger says the state’s general revenue fund is not receiving the benefits of a flourishing oil and gas industry.

State legislators are cutting essential services because there is not enough money in the general fund.

There are school districts that are relying on less and less money.

There are bridges to be fixed.

Government sometimes may need to help industry survive.

Government sometimes might need to provide the economic incentive to get businesses to invest in jobs in our state.

Tax breaks and incentives are a way to help businesses get started or succeed in sketchy economic times.

But profits and record profits are two wildly different scenarios.

It’s time for a review.