TAX incentives have been a hot topic at the Legislature in recent years, particularly as the state has had to deal with budget shortfalls. Lawmakers in 2017 should get a clearer picture of just how effective several of these incentives really are.
A law approved in 2015 requires each state economic incentive to be evaluated once every four years. There previously had been no formal process in place to review the effectiveness of the tax credits, rebates, deductions and other programs the state offers to businesses.
The commission recently approved a schedule for presenting its evaluations to state policymakers. The panel’s review of 11 incentives totaling $110 million per year will be handed over to the governor and Legislature prior to the 2017 session.
Among the 11 incentives are the five-year ad valorem tax exemption (annual cost to the state: $67.6 million), the zero-emission tax credit for renewable energy ($26.6 million), the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Act ($5 million), the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit ($4.3 million) and the Aerospace Engineer Tax credit ($3.6 million).
The evaluations are being performed by PFM, a financial advisory services firm based in Philadelphia. Leading the team in Oklahoma are the former state budget directors of New York and Iowa.
The push to reform or eliminate tax credits and incentives has been talked about for years. PFM’s work is designed to give lawmakers firm data to measure just how much bang the state is getting for its buck. We look forward to seeing what it is evaluators have to say about the first 11 incentives on their list.
In Oklahoma, it’s easier to register to vote today than at any time in state history. Yet fewer people do so. An analysis by the Tulsa World found that 16 percent of eligible Oklahomans did not register to vote in 2000. By 2014 (the most recent year for which data was available), the nonregistered group rose to 29 percent of the eligible population. Eighty-two percent of those aged 30 to 39 were registered in October 1999, but just 61 percent in 2014. Among 18-to-29-year-olds, registration fell from 61 percent to 48 percent. The only group to maintain or increase registration levels was those 60 and older. It’s notable that higher registration numbers preceded many reforms adopted to make registration easier in Oklahoma. This suggests that a lack of civic engagement, not complex registration procedures, is to blame for these trends.