Oklahoma City residents have a choice to make on Tuesday, December 8. Do we continue to pay a penny of sales tax to support some new stuff for our City or not?
Many reporters and bloggers around town have already weighed in on one side or the other. One point that appears to have gone unnoticed is that of basic fairness. So, let’s look at fairness.
First, let’s go back to those wonderful memories of economics classes we took in school.
To be specific, let’s talk about progressive and regressive taxation. If the terms progressive and regressive are not part of your most treasured memories from school, read this next paragraph. Otherwise, skip on to the next!
Progressive taxes are those that impose higher rates for those taxpayers who have the greatest ability to pay. That is, the wealthiest taxpayers, or those in the highest income brackets, pay higher tax rates than those who have less income or wealth. Regressive taxes are taxes that place a heavier tax burden on those with less wealth or lower income. For example, a sales tax is regressive since low-income families have little choice but to spend everything they make and thus pay sales taxes. They pay a higher percentage of their income in sales taxes than do those who are wealthy enough to save or invest—those who need not spend their entire paycheck just to cover basic necessities. Some cities and states attempt to remedy this situation by exempting groceries from sales taxes, or providing some sort of tax rebate for low-income taxpayers. Our City does not have any program to remedy the regressive nature of sales taxes.
Note that both MAPS projects have been financed by sales taxes. Cities find sales taxes easy and inexpensive to administer. Imagine the difficulty in implementing a city income tax! Still, there are some important questions to ask about MAPS 3.
Where is the money going?
Where is the money coming from?
The various projects are listed and described on several sources listed below.
So, vote on Tuesday, December 8! And when you do, ask yourself if a new convention center paid for by regressive taxes, is what our city needs. I don’t think so.
Arden Rea lives in Oklahoma City.