Thoughts following the recent Nov 4 elections:
-In the past quarter-century, Oklahoma has experienced three distinct Republican electoral waves. The first two led to historic improvements in Oklahoma’s economic climate.
The first wave, 1994, resulted in Right to Work becoming law in Oklahoma. The second, 2010, led to landmark workers’ compensation and tort reforms. The third, 2014, presents a golden opportunity to lock in a responsible phaseout of Oklahoma’s burdensome income tax.
-All three waves featured Mary Fallin in a pivotal role. In 1994, she was elected as Oklahoma’s first Republican lieutenant governor and the first woman to hold the office. As presiding officer of the state Senate, she broke a tie vote and allowed Right to Work to advance to the ballot. In 2010, she became the first woman to be elected Oklahoma Governor. As chief executive, she signed workers’ compensation and tort reforms into law.
Now, after being re-elected in 2014, and with the largest GOP legislative majority in state history, Gov. Fallin has the opportunity to yet again make history.
-Every tax-cutting governor on the ballot Nov 4 was re-elected: Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Susana Martinez in New Mexico, John Kasich in Ohio, Rick Scott in Florida, Paul LePage in Maine.
And Sam Brownback in Kansas. In the past three years, Brownback eliminated state income taxes on small business profits, lowered the income tax rate under 5 percent for all Kansans, and locked in an extended phaseout of both the personal and corporate income tax.
Liberal and conservative media alike expected Brownback to be defeated in his re-election bid. Instead, he and his tax-cutting peers across the country showed that reducing taxes on work, earnings and production is not politically unpopular.
-Candidates for open governorships were already signaling their intent to reduce income taxes on families, individuals and job creators.
Pete Ricketts in Nebraska — in an “income tax sandwich” between Kansas and no-income-tax South Dakota (similar to Oklahoma’s position between Kansas and Texas) — has said he will work to reduce income tax rates. So has Doug Ducey in Arizona, tired of seeing California tax refugees pass over his state en route to no-income-tax Nevada and Texas. Ricketts and Ducey, now elected, can be expected to lead their states in competitive directions.
Also, several gubernatorial contests in states where governors had recently raised taxes saw those offices flip to the other political party, including in Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts.
-During her campaign, when discussing issues outside of pushing back against Pres. Obama’s extensive overreach, Gov. Fallin perhaps turned most often to her efforts to lower Oklahoma’s income tax. Her 2012 proposal to phase out the tax over time was the boldest policy initiative of her first term.
Now, Oklahoma is presented with a window of opportunity to realize the biggest remaining game-changer in the 50-state competition for jobs and growth. This window isn’t guaranteed to stay open beyond 2018, as anyone who thought Steve Largent would succeed Frank Keating as Governor in 2002 — after Republicans had taken back control of Washington, D.C., and Oklahoma’s electorate had shifted back toward the political middle — can attest.
As we near the first of four legislative sessions comprising Gov. Fallin’s final term, there’s no better time than now to secure a responsible phaseout of Oklahoma’s income tax.