| July 4, 2013

Let tax freedom ring!

Do you remember what you were doing on April 6 of this year?

I think many of us would be hard-pressed to remember. It was a Saturday. In fact, Oklahoma City actually set a record high for the day at 74 degrees. Spring was in the air, and whether you knew it or not, it was a great day to breathe a sigh of relief.

You see, in Oklahoma, April 6 was Tax Freedom Day. That's the day that we "celebrated" our independence from the taxman, both in Washington D.C. and Oklahoma City.

According to the Tax Foundation, from January 1 to April 6, 2013, every dime you earned went to paying your share of federal, state, and local taxes. I think that makes April 6th a day to celebrate indeed! Oklahoma has always ranked near the bottom of the list for lowest overall tax burden, and this year we were 40th — for once it's a good thing to be near the bottom of this list!

As we all know, the leadership in our own state capitol has made tax reform a priority and they should be applauded for it, but their work is not over. The tremendous tax burden that the federal government is pushing down to taxpayers is unprecedented. The growth of Internal Revenue Service manpower to police the impending Obamacare state is tremendous, and we need any relief we can get.

But with great opportunities such as ours come the great responsibilities that all elected officials owe to their citizenry. The money we spend comes from you, the taxpayer. The more money we spend, the more the taxpayer must provide. It's a responsibility that I take very seriously. If state agencies, authorities, boards, and commissions can conservatively manage your tax dollars, then we need less money and you’re more likely to see your tax burden shrink. That means more money stays in your pocket. It's an economic theory that seems so simple that it just might work.

The lower the tax burden, the more competitive Oklahoma can be in attracting businesses and families to our state. A low tax burden leaves you the ability to make your own decisions, control your own destiny, and frankly, gives you the freedom to spend your money as you see fit. As we celebrate Independence Day I have a challenge for all of us elected officeholders. We should be pushing tax policies that put more money into citizens’ pockets, thereby increasing freedom. It is my goal to celebrate Tax Freedom Day earlier and earlier each year. Let’s make that a goal for all of us.

[Mark Costello was Oklahoma’s commissioner of labor.]

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