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Letters to the Editor

Oklahoma is not OK

D.W. Tiffee February 29th, 2012

In support of Republican plans to eliminate the state income tax, the deranged Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs claims that “states with no income tax and with the lowest overall tax burdens consistently outperform the high-tax states, the national average and Oklahoma.” (Commentary, “Point: Phase out state personal income tax,” Feb. 1, Oklahoma Gazette).

That’s simply not true; Gov. Fallin has acknowledged that Oklahoma’s per capita gross state product growth over the last decade “was the third highest in the nation at 14 percent.”

What is true is that high energy and agricultural prices have fueled the economies of the high growth states. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, our per capita income growth from 2000 to 2010 exceeded Texas, Florida, Washington, Tennessee, New Hampshire and Nevada — all states without an income tax.

The notion that higher growth will replace the $2.5 billion in lost revenue is laughable. Nationally, we slashed income tax rates under Bush, and revenues fell from 20.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2000 to 16.1 percent in 2004, the lowest level since 1951. The mean income of middle class families fell $928 from 2000 to 2007, while growing $6,405 between 1992 and 2000.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, our combined state and local spending is $7,858 per capita, well below the national average of $9,572.

Here are the tragic consequences of our low levels of spending: The life expectancy rates of Oklahoma residents have dropped significantly in the past decade. We rank 48th in the nation in the availability of long-term care for seniors and the disabled; 43rd for child well-being; last in the nation in overall health rankings related to disease and mortality; 49th in access to primary care physicians; 45th in infant mortality; fifth-highest death rate for child abuse; emergency care network ranks 50th; fourth hungriest state; 47th in teacher salaries; third worst roads in the nation.

—D.W. Tiffee

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