Capitol Considerations by Senator Bill Coleman
Senator Bill Coleman, Ponca City-District 10 - July 29, 2022 6:30 am
Senator Bill Coleman-Ponca City
In the months between the regular legislative sessions, work continues at the Capitol as we seek to gather information and address important issues facing our state and impacting Oklahomans. We accomplish this through various avenues in the Legislature.
There are interim studies, which can last from an hour to so many days, where various experts educate a committee on particular issues. These will be starting soon and can be followed at https://oksenate.gov/publications/senate-interim-studies.
We have task forces, which are long-term committees that can include non-legislative members as well. These groups are tasked with a set of goals and a deadline to report their findings on a specific topic. An example of this is the Oklahoma Hydrogen Task Force, which met this past year to figure out what legislation was needed to help our state become one of the top leaders in this young industry. The task force found that investing in this alternative energy source could result in more than 4,400 direct jobs, up to as many as 19,500 total jobs and have an annual impact of $1.5 to $2.5 billion on our state’s economy. This is very exciting but a massive industry that will require continual work from industry experts and legislators.
Working groups are also common. As a result of the governor’s special session to consider tax cuts, a Senate working group on that topic was formed, and I was among the members selected to help research tax reform. Our state’s economy has experienced tremendous growth in the last few years, but unfortunately our national economy is struggling. Inflation is at an all-time high, there are massive supply chain issues and employment shortages, and the price of goods and services in skyrocketing. Although we’ve had record revenue collections, the Legislature has passed fiscally conservative budgets, building our state savings to over $2 billion. This way, Oklahoma will be prepared should there be a recession.
Having said this, however, there was a strong push this past session to cut taxes. As a taxpayer myself, I love this idea, but as a legislator I know that taxes pay for the many state services Oklahomans depend on daily. It’s also easy to cut taxes, but it’s extremely hard to raise them should an economic crisis arise. Under State Question 640 passed by voters in 1992, tax increases must be approved by a supermajority, or 75%, of both legislative chambers, or by a vote of the people. For this reason, we can’t make a knee jerk reaction and cut taxes just because we have money today. We have to crunch all the numbers and consider all possible future scenarios to come up with a plan that is fiscally conservative and protects state services.
Our task force is not looking at a quick gimmick for inflation relief, but at real long-term tax reform to benefit all Oklahomans. While some agreements were reached during session, they just wouldn’t work long term. We have to come up with tax reform that will help provide real relief but won’t hurt the state financially during economic downturns. When we lose revenue during such times, state services and jobs are put at risk, and that is what we want to avoid.
We’re meeting regularly to discuss further ideas, and I’d greatly welcome any ideas you might have. You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected]