A SoonerPoll released this afternoon shows a combined 69.2 percent of respondents either “strongly” or “somewhat” support a tax plan substantially similar to the Step Up Oklahoma plan’s revenue component.
But the poll’s question on “a comprehensive package” of tax increases does not entirely reflect HB 1033XX, which the House and Senate are each expected to hear Thursday in their budget committees.
That bill includes a new $1-per-megawatt-hour tax on energy produced by a “commercial wind turbine.” The wind tax has been the subject of debate among lawmakers — particularly those from the 23 Oklahoma counties with wind projects — as they prepare to consider the Step Up Oklahoma revenue bill.
SoonerPoll’s question shows a combined 24.4 percent opposition to the tax package described, which was framed to include:
- a $1.50 increase on cigarettes
- an increase from 2 percent to 4 percent on the 36-month gross production tax incentive rate on oil and gas drilling
- a $0.06-per-gallon increase on gasoline and diesel fuels
- increases to the state income tax that would have staggered effects based on income (see poll below)
The poll’s question also asks voters’ opinions if they “were assured by additional governmental reforms that the additional funding would go ONLY to solve the current state budget deficit of $100 million, give teachers a $5,000 increase in pay and avoid future revenue shortfalls such as this one.”
‘They knew the public supports wind’
Mark Yates, executive director of OK Wind Power, expressed amusement that the poll’s question did not include the proposed wind generation tax.
“I believe that poll would be much different if they would have included wind, and I would be interested in knowing their reasoning for leaving wind off of it,” Yates said. “I think it’s been very evident by a lot of the material in newspapers and social media, they intentionally left wind off of either a poll or other publications because they knew wind wouldn’t poll that high. They knew the public supports wind.”
Bill Shapard, founder of Sooner Poll, disagreed. While he had no comment as to the reason why the wind tax was not part of the poll question, he said he believes voters look at the wind tax no differently than gross production taxes.
“It’s a tax that taxpayers don’t pay, and voters are typically more in favor of taxes they don’t pay than taxes they do,” Shapard said.
In his analysis of the poll posted online, Shapard offered perspective.
“Anti-tax Republicans need to understand their party is not monolithic in its thinking and there are a lot of Republicans in the state that believe government needs to meet its constitutional requirement of a balanced budget — even if that means an increase in taxes,” Shapard said. “In general, neither Democrats nor Republicans want to raise taxes. That’s why the support for this proposal is so unusual because, again, Oklahomans want this crisis to end.”
Asked about the poll’s question not including the wind tax proposal, Brent Gooden, president and CEO of the Gooden Group that is representing Step Up Oklahoma, said focus should be on how much Oklahomans want a solution to the state’s budget problems.
“The Step Up plan will address Oklahoma’s recurring revenue challenge and provide funding for teacher pay while at the same time creating greater accountability,” Gooden said. “As we learned today, Oklahomans want to see the Legislature come together to solve our problems. They are tired of the chaos and crisis. They want certainty, and they want compromise. We were pleased with the results showing Oklahomans are willing to Step Up to solve our problems, pay our teachers and protect our most vulnerable citizens.
Gooden offered further explanation of the polling and the message Oklahomans have sent.
“While the revenue generated from wind in the Step Up plan is minimal in comparison to the other revenue-raising measures, it is still an important part of addressing our recurring revenue issue and paying our teachers more adequately,” Gooden added. “That said, we opted to focus the research on the sentiment of Oklahomans toward revenue and reforms to solve our budget problems. On that point, it is abundantly clear they see revenue as well as reforms as part of the solution as underscored by the research. Oklahomans want solutions, and the Step Up plan provides them.”
The SoonerPoll was conducted between Jan. 30 and Feb. 5, receiving responses from 409 likely voters with a stated margin of error of 4.85 percent.
(Update: This story was updated at 6:51 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 7, to include an additional quote from Brent Gooden.)