State Rep. Tom Gann says Oklahomans have every reason for optimism when it comes to the state budget, funding a teacher pay raise and paying for core government services.
None of that is dependent upon passing the largest tax increase ever put before the state Legislature, said Gann.
“I was emboldened by President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address and the wave of optimism it sparked,” said Gann, R-Inola. “He spoke of lowering taxes on all Americans and on corporations. These changes already are resulting in jobs coming back to America, bonuses and higher wages for employees, not to mention the return of the can-do spirit that helped build this nation. The president’s plan can work here in Oklahoma as well.”
Gann said he felt he must speak out against the over-exaggerated view that the state’s economy is still struggling and taxes must be raised. “In fact, our economy is on the upswing,” he said. “Reports from the state treasurer show revenue is up for 11 of the past 12 months compared to the previous year. That trend is continuing. The budget hole is shrinking by the day. We may in fact finish this fiscal year with a surplus and not the deficit predicted. Let’s not tax the additional revenue thousands of Oklahomans will receive due to the federal tax cuts. Let’s encourage them to spend it on the things they need.”
Gann, who serves on the House Special Investigation Committee, said now is not the time to raise taxes. Instead, it is time to continue to look at how and why money is spent by state agencies.
The investigation committee, for instance, has heard from leaders at the state Health Department about how more than $30 million of taxpayer money was spent inappropriately, resulting in an emergency appropriation of state funds. Gann said the committee is just now beginning to see instances of gross abuse of tax payer dollars and is seeking to unravel how it was covered up for years. The committee’s work already has stretched to other agencies.
“We haven’t yet done anything to correct the problem,” he said. “We are only now discovering the depths of the issues. Before we ask our citizens to pay more in taxes, let’s take time to make sure we have implemented proper spending reforms first. We may find we have enough money to fund teacher pay raises and fund core services.”