It’s no secret by now that the Oklahoma treasury is turning its pockets inside-out. With an upcoming budget deficit of somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion dollars, every state department and agency’s coffers are tightening up faster than Joseph Silk’s butthole in the Copa bathroom. Education is getting hit hard, and even selling all the candy bars in the world isn’t gonna turn it around.
It’s also common knowledge that energy companies get massive tax breaks for doing business here. Oklahoma’s entire economy seemingly depends on the booms-and-busts of oil and natural gas, and we don’t ask for much of a tithe to the state.
But how much difference would it actually make if CHK/etc were required to pay their proper dues? According to a story by KFOR about a graphic that is sweeping the mommyblogger Facebook scene, it would make a huge difference:
OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s a graphic making the rounds on Facebook that has people up in arms.
It shows that tax breaks for horizontal drilling have increased by about the same amount that school aid funding has been slashed.
This graphic is causing a stir among some parents.
David Blatt with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa-based state think tank, put the graphic together a couple years back.
First of all, I would like to congratulate former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach David Blatt for rebounding so quickly and finding gainful employment in the private sector here in Oklahoma. He already seems to be doing a better job drawing up charts here than he was doing drawing up plays for LeBron James.
“We looked at the cost of that tax break for horizontal drilling, how much revenue was being abandoned, because we were only taxing horizontal production at 1%, and compared that to how much had been cut out of the school aid formula and found it was almost a one to one match,” Blatt said.
He said, today, it’s obviously a different story.
“With oil and gas at such low levels, we would not be getting a lot of tax revenue from oil and gas production, regardless,” Blatt said.
But, he said the revenue that our state lost out on from 2008 to 2014 is staggering.
“Some years, it was over $200 million,” Blatt said. “It actually rose to a high of $380 million last year.”
So, maybe this chart simplifies things a bit, but it is still very clear that the money the state denied itself by cutting taxes to the energy industry could have helped pay teachers and buy books for its future generation of geologists and country singers. It is stunning how close those two numbers are.
Almost as stunning as the last sentence in the article:
We reached out to the governor’s office for comment, but a spokesperson said they would not make one because they feel the two issues are unrelated.
Let me get this straight… the massive amount of money that the state avoided collecting by cutting taxes is unrelated to the equally mammoth cuts in funding that they’ve forced upon essential services.
The most frustrating part is how every time oil prices tank, the state seems absolutely blindsided by it. It would make a lot of sense to appropriately tax the energy industry while oil prices are high, save some money back, and not have to panic and lose your shit every single time crude plummets to thirty dollars a barrel.
Imagine that you are a bartender on campus corner in Norman. When it’s football season, you are making mad bank every weekend, but the summer months get lean. If you’re wise with your money, you save all the extra cash you’re making in the fall so you can pay the bills later on when you’re not bringing in as much.
Oklahoma is like the bartender who takes their vacation to Europe during bowl season, then works lunch shifts all summer and wonders why they can’t afford to keep the lights on at home.
So what is the end goal behind this administration’s refusal to acknowledge the real source of their financial woes? Is it embarrassment over how they’ve mishandled the budget? Are they so in the pockets of the industry lobbyists that even the suggestion that of Devon & family paying their fair share is offensive?
Or is it as simple as they stated, that the two issues are “unrelated?” For the sake of whatever scraps of pride Mary Fallin is clinging to, I hope she keeps her message consistent. For the sake of our teachers, roads, and state employees, I hope she comes to her senses.