Monday, October 29, 2018

OCPA column: Who's like whom?


Who’s like whom?
by Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs

There’s been a lot of talk lately about which of the gubernatorial candidates is most like the current governor. Let’s look at it.

One of the biggest issues in Oklahoma the last four years has been tax increases. On this issue, Democrat candidate Drew Edmondson appears to be the most like the current administration.

In the current administration’s second term, we saw multiple pushes for tax increases totaling more than $2 billion annually. The current administration did succeed in their second term in increasing income taxes by more than $185 million on Oklahomans.

Edmondson has repeatedly called for more tax increases – including on income and capital gains, services, cigarettes, and oil and gas production.

The Republican candidate, Kevin Stitt, has said his outsider status and successful business experience are what is needed to make government more accountable and work more effectively. Noting economic growth and the corresponding revenue growth, he was opposed to enacted increases in annual taxes and revenues under the current administration – $1.1 billion since 2015.

The Libertarian candidate, Chris Powell, said that certain tax incentives should be eliminated and not more tax increases.

Consider also the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. The current administration on multiple occasions signaled public support for – and tried to push through – some form of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, whether it was the “Leavitt Plan” or the “Rebalance Plan” or some other iteration.

Edmondson has advocated repeatedly for Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, saying it will save hospitals. Stitt maintains that significant cost overruns – and cutbacks in program services for the truly needy – in other states that have expanded this welfare program make it a government expansion that Oklahoma should avoid. Powell has voiced opposition to expansion.

Consider pensions. For Stitt or Powell, neither has had a state government career. If elected, state law now requires them to be in a defined contribution plan like most taxpayers. By contrast, Edmondson’s 29-year government career allows him to continue to draw his guaranteed annual state pension of $149,934 (he has drawn $1.2 million to date) alongside the governor’s salary of $147,000 (for a total of $296,934), while the current governor’s 24-year career will allow her to draw around $176,000 guaranteed annually.

For both Edmondson and the current governor, a special provision – for politicians only – allowed their annual pension to be higher than their annual salary ever was.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

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