Saturday, January 21, 2023

OCPA column: Fiscal crisis can prompt good policy

Fiscal crisis can prompt good policy
By Jonathan Small

Oklahomans may live far removed from Washington, D.C., but that doesn’t mean the negative repercussions of bad federal policy are not felt by families in all parts of the state. Out-of-control federal spending and government overreach has fueled constant tax increase attempts, historic inflation and widespread hardship.

But one of the few upsides to the federal fiscal crisis is that is has prompted good policy responses at the state level.

In Oklahoma, state leaders are wisely acknowledging the burden government places on lives and livelihoods by discussing tax cuts and tax reform that will lower the penalty on work and encourage new investment and new job creation. Those discussions have renewed urgency due to the financial challenges facing many families due to inflation.

I’ve long noted the need to eliminate Oklahoma’s personal income tax if we want to supercharge our state economy. Not all taxes are equally destructive, and the income tax is among the worst. Any progress in eliminating the income tax deserves applause.

The focus on boosting Oklahomans’ ability to raise their standard of living also extends to government oversight proposals that could have significant benefit.

House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, recently said the state must stop stripping professionals of their licenses when they fall behind on tax payments. He noted that sanction makes it less likely the state collects the tax while doing significant harm to individuals.

“In Oklahoma, if you get behind on your taxes, you will lose your professional license, so essentially you get punished twice, because you can’t work in your profession to dig yourself out of the hole,” McCall said. “I was recently approached by a person who works as a front-desk receptionist. He is a trained, experienced and licensed nurse, but because he fell behind on his tax payments, he’s prohibited from renewing his license. This isn’t right. This is a problem for workforce in the state of Oklahoma.”

State Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, R-Adair, has also filed legislation, Senate Bill 132, to address this issue for those with nursing licenses.

“I’ve helped a couple of nurses in this situation,” Bergstrom said. “In one recent case the IRS decided to deny a deduction on a 2017 tax return. Because Oklahoma tax returns are linked to federal returns this resulted in OTC (Oklahoma Tax Commission) demanding payment as well. OTC gave the nursing licensing board a timeline to revoke the nurse’s license. She drove to Oklahoma City to pay the taxes yet almost two months later OTC had not released the revoke order and this nurse lost a position that she loved.”

Oklahomans’ input into federal fiscal policy is limited mostly to our congressional delegation, which includes only five House members and two senators. But at the state level, we still control our own destiny. Fortunately, many of our state leaders are committed to helping more families prosper.

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


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