The Republican-induced financial morass continues in Oklahoma, and the overall economic outlook for the immediate future here remains bleak.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) May 17, 2016
That may seem unduly negative or harsh, but it’s the reality. Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller announced this week that tax receipts for August were down 4 percent from last year, making it the eighteenth straight month of “downward trajectory.” To make matters worse, Oklahoma’s unemployment rate is now at 5 percent, or, as Miller put it his monthly news releases of doom and gloom, “Oklahoma’s jobless numbers exceed the national rate for the first time in almost 26 years.”
Let’s be clear that the recent GOP-sponsored income tax cuts and tax breaks in recent years for the energy industry are a major contributor to the state’s dwindling revenues. Obviously, the world’s oil glut has contributed to a decline in gross production taxes here, but the reality is the Republicans have created this mess here with a failed ideology.
That failed ideology goes something like this: Let’s cut taxes a little bit for everyone and then give rich people and big corporations huge tax breaks, and then our economy will boom like never before! The real question, of course, is whether many of the Republicans pushing this ideology really believe in it or if they just don’t care about public education and want to reward the richest among us.
Did you just feel an earthquake? I did. It’s been brought to you by the Oklahoma Republican Party and the oil and gas industry, which are synonymous, and your kids are paying for that earthquake with larger class sizes and outdated textbooks and equipment.
Miller, a Republican himself, doesn’t skirt around the issue of Oklahoma’s financial disaster. Here’s what he had to say:
We keep scouring through the data to find signs of an impending turnaround, but it’s just not there. Some aspects of the August report aren’t as negative as in prior months – a few revenue streams have ticked up slightly – but we can’t yet point to a positive trend.
Keep looking, Dr. Miller! I would suggest you and your fellow Republicans look in a mirror.
I’m not an economist, but I think it’s only going to get worse here. We are now past Labor Day, which signals the end of the summer driving season, and oil prices, as I write this, are still below $50 a barrel. Meanwhile, the fracking process in Oklahoma is under intense scrutiny because of our earthquake crisis caused by saltwater disposal wells. A recent record 5.8-earthquake near Pawnee was felt as far away as St. Louis.
A recent income tax cut from 5.25 to 5 percent went into effect just this year. Further income tax cuts are on the horizon if revenue quotas are met. Two years ago, the Republican-dominated legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin gave the Oklahoma oil and gas industry what Reuters called one of the “juiciest tax breaks in the United States . . .”.
These are the type of headlines you can read from media outlets OUTSIDE the state: “When the oil boom went bust, Oklahoma protected drillers and squeezed schools” and “Oklahoma Makes the Poor Poorer.” But Oklahomans are just so nice, right?
The largest recorded earthquake in state history caused by the oil and gas industry and the bleak economic outlook here can make for some gallows humor so forgive me. Serious change can only begin in the voting booth in November.