By Brandon Dutcher
Most Oklahomans want to reduce the state income tax — even (or especially) if this results in a smaller state government that provides fewer services.
This according to new data from SoonerPoll, a respected firm that surveyed 587 likely Oklahoma voters from July 25 to Aug. 11. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.04 percent.
“There has been a lot of talk these days about the hundreds of tax credits and other tax breaks in the Oklahoma tax code,” SoonerPoll said in one question. “It’s possible that some of these tax breaks will be eliminated in the years ahead. If so, some people say the additional revenues should be used to fund state-government services. Other people say the additional revenues should be used to reduce the Oklahoma income tax rate. Which view comes closer to your own?”
A full 63 percent said “reduce the Oklahoma income tax,” while 31 percent said “fund state-government services.”
Well, OK, let’s press the matter a little further.
“Gov. Mary Fallin recently said one of her long-term goals is to eliminate the Oklahoma income tax, which is the largest source of state revenue. Some people say this can be done by restructuring the tax system. They say we could increase property taxes or other taxes to make up for the lost income tax revenue. Other people say this can be done without raising other taxes. They say that normal growth revenue, coupled with reductions in state spending, will enable us to phase out the income tax over a seven-year period. If Oklahoma is going to eliminate the income tax, which option would you prefer?”
Only 22 percent said raise other taxes, while 65 percent said don’t raise other taxes.
Why would so many Oklahomans be willing to eliminate the state’s largest revenue source? Another question sheds light on the matter.
“Which of the following statements do you agree with more? ‘I’d rather pay higher taxes to support a larger state government that provides more services,’ or ‘I’d rather pay lower taxes and have a smaller state government that provides fewer services.’”
A full 59 percent want lower taxes and smaller government, while 28 percent go the other way.
Oklahoma government has yet to be right-sized. As my colleague Jonathan Small pointed out March 11 in The Oklahoman, Oklahoma government spending is at an all-time high.
It’s time we took a lesson from Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.
“If our Indiana experience tells us anything,” Daniels says, “it’s that many in our political class overestimate the degree of difficulty in diving into the excess government we have stacked up in America these last few decades. It could be that they mistake the angry self-interest of the middlemen — the ‘service providers,’ the grantsmen, those who profit from helping government redistribute money — for representing a wider swath of opinion than they really do.”
The SoonerPoll results would seem to bear that out.
As Daniels is fond of saying, “You’d be surprised how much government you’ll never miss.”

Dutcher is vice president for policy at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

Click here to read this article on NewsOK.com

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