Friday, February 17, 2017

Rep. Bobby Cleveland: we’re just one bill away from a cattle gas tax

State Rep. Bobby Cleveland (R-Slaughterville)
A taxing proposal

There’s been a whole lot of talk about our $868 million budget hole this year and ways the lawmakers could fill the gap.

One idea driving a lot of the conversation: raising taxes.

Now I might be old fashioned, but I believe it’s my job as a lawmaker to cut government, not to hike taxes. So when people float proposals to increase the motor fuel tax or expand taxes to include services like child care, legal fees and utility services, my antenna goes up. There’s got to be a better way.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who believes this. Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb has stepped out in opposition to the new tax proposal, and I stand with him 110 percent.

Before we consider taxing our taxidermy or lawn services, shouldn’t we look at our own spending? Shouldn’t we do everything we can to avoid allowing the government to take even more of our hard-earned money out of our pockets? If the answer to that question isn’t “yes,” then I don’t know what I’m doing up here at the Capitol.

Look at agencies like the Department of Public Safety, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. These agencies could easily be consolidated into a single department, and it would result in a more efficient system, ease the flow of information between departments and ultimately save the taxpayers money. We’re one of a handful of states whose public safety departments still operate separately, and it’s high time we rethink our organizational charts.

So before we go and start taxing dead people, we need to look at cutting spending and current tax credits. The wind isn’t going anywhere in Oklahoma, and neither are the companies who harvest it. That’s an easy credit we could eliminate.

I understand the cigarette tax is an alluring idea for some. Smoking is terrible, and it costs the state money. But to increase taxes by $1.50 per pack would largely impact low-income Oklahomans more than others, and that’s just not right.

The Oklahomans I’ve heard from in the past week are adamantly opposed to new taxes. And voters in November flat-out rejected the notion of an increased sales tax. You sent a resounding message to the Legislature. And what is the loudest idea that’s surfaced so far at the Capitol? New taxes.

I refuse to believe this is the best option in front of us. But if it is, I’m surprised we haven’t gone ahead and started regulating cattle farts like they have in California. In an attempt to lessen methane emissions, the liberal state decided it would be wise to target greenhouse gasses from cattle.

With all of these proposed taxes for Oklahoma, I’d say we’re just one bill away from a cattle gas tax. And do we really want to be like California?


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