Kaiser urges shift in state tax breaks: He says incentives for oil and gas should be cut back to allow more help for individual taxpayers.
(Tulsa World (OK) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 23--OKLAHOMA CITY -- Tulsa businessman and philanthropist George Kaiser told a legislative panel on Thursday that taxpayers deserve a break more than the oil and gas industry does.
Kaiser, controlling shareholder of the Kaiser-Francis Oil Co. based in Tulsa, encouraged lawmakers on the House Appropriations and Budget Committee to eliminate or limit tax incentives for the oil and gas industry.
"People are hurting," Kaiser said. "Let's give the taxpayer a break during these difficult times and eliminate or limit this government largesse."
Kaiser is chairman of BOK Financial Corp., but said he was speaking as a representative of the George Kaiser Family Foundation.
Some incentives, such as the rebate for horizontal drilling, are up for renewal this year. In fiscal year 2007, the rebate was about $27 million, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Kaiser said the wells would still be drilled without the rebate.
He suggested that the money that would go to the rebates be spent on health care, a pay raise for teachers, an income or corporate tax cut, a tuition reduction or in numerous other ways.
"Even the most hardscrabble oil and gas producer or working interest owner is in far better shape right now than the average taxpayer in this state," Kaiser said.
Using the funds for services or tax cuts to help the middle class and working poor will do more for the state's economy than giving tax cuts to producers and out-of-state investors, Kaiser said.
businessman Bob Sullivan of Sullivan and Co. said the incentives were significant to his company.
Although he has never made a decision to drill based on incentives, the money went for salaries or to pay for more drilling, Sullivan said.
Sullivan has increased his activity as a result of the incentives, he said, adding that what the state signals to the industry is very important.
"We appreciate what you have done with these incentives," Sullivan said.
Rep. Ken Miller, House Appropriations and Budget Committee chairman, said the Legislature does not view the incentives as a giveaway.
"We want to incentivize an industry that has been very good to Oklahoma," said Miller, R-Edmond.
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465 [email protected]
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