Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Okla. House Speaker Kris Steele: Work on Tax Incentive System Will Continue after Session Ends

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Okla. House Speaker Kris Steele: Work on Tax Incentive System Will Continue after Session Ends

Article excerpt

A moratorium placed on state tax incentives is likely to stay in place until lawmakers develop a method for judging those incentives, the leader of the Oklahoma House of Representatives said last week.

Speaking at his weekly press conference Thursday, House Speaker Kris Steele said lawmakers - including state Rep. David Dank, R- Oklahoma City, chairman of the House subcommittee on revenue and taxation - will continue to review the state's tax incentive system after the legislative session adjourns in May.

"Chairman Dank has been diligent in examining the credits that are currently on the books," Steele, R-Shawnee, said. "He's also been diligent in trying to work with the committee to measure or determine if the tax credits are effective and, indeed, if they have proper accountability and oversight and if they are fulfilling the purpose for which they were created."

In early March, Dank praised an opinion by then-Attorney General Drew Edmondson. That opinion, issued in December of 2010, suggested a three-pronged test to determine the constitutionality of state tax incentives.

Edmondson's test, Dank said, would go a long way in helping lawmakers determine the viability of the tax incentives currently on the books.

"It's a terrific opinion," Dank said, "and it could be very helpful."

Questions about the number of tax incentives have grown as lawmakers struggle to backfill a $500 billion budget gap.

While Steele, Gov. Mary Fallin and Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, have all endorsed a review of the system, Democratic leaders in the House complained that Fallin has not followed through on her State of the State speech to eliminate tax credits that don't create jobs.

"Nowhere in her executive budget or in the conversations that have followed has the $5.2 billion in tax credits and exemptions lost each year been seriously discussed," said state Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City.

State Democratic Party Chairman Todd Goodman said he was disappointed that billions of dollars of tax incentives remain on the books.

"I think it's sad Republican leadership is not willing to look at any of the $5 billion tax credits and exemptions they give each year, yet insist on continuing to gut agencies that serve our most vulnerable citizens," Goodman said. …

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