Oklahoma State Representative Jason Murphey

Chairman Government Modernization Committee

Oklahoma Osage Shield

The Legislature's Attack on Charity

08.28.2017

Though far removed from reality, the legislative world does share some aspects with the real world.

Consider the case of the individual who has fallen into the habit of frequent cussing.

Upon encountering this individual at Walmart or on the street, the average good-hearted listener will likely excuse this individual's tendency to use profanity as being "a little rough around the edges."

It's much harder to give this person the same consideration if he shows the bad judgment of cussing in front of children.

There are some things that a person with even a modicum of good judgement learns to avoid.

There are moments in the Legislature when legislators show a similar lack of judgement.

One of these moments occurred this year.

In recent weeks I have explained some of the strategies used throughout last session by a group of tax increase ideologues as they positioned legislators to support their plans for new taxation. They proposed new tax after new tax.

The general public wasn't aware of all of these proposals; however, careful observers took note as increase after increase won the approval of the Appropriations Committee before losing momentum and being exposed as unrealistic.

The committee approved proposals ranging from the far reaching 36% increase in the state gas tax, applying a tax on rental vehicles, a new tax on Paypal transfers, and finally, a "widow's" tax that levied a tax whenever a car was transferred from one family member to the other.

These new taxes were impossible to justify, especially given that overall state spending appeared to reach an all time high of almost 19 billion dollars last year. Considering that the Legislature had failed to establish even the most minimalistic of actual, meaningful oversight of that state spend; nonetheless, perhaps the especially kind-hearted observer could extend the benefit of the doubt and give legislative leadership the consideration of being "a little rough around the edges."

That consideration clearly ended when the committee approved a $165M tax grab that would have capped your ability to claim charitable deductions on your state income tax.

The charitable tax deduction exemplifies an extremely important principle: individuals should be empowered to decide which entity most effectively adjudicates compassion -- a private charity or the government.

When government takes money, it does so in a way that all too often isn't efficient; however, a charity which ceases to function ethically and efficiently must face the consequences of the free market.

The deduction allows an individual to align his giving with his faith. A charity can provide actual solutions to societal ills -- faith-based solutions -- an ability not so readily available to government entities.

In explaining their position for the cap, a leading appropriations officials told the committee: "I hope we don't think that Oklahomans will stop giving to charity just because they can't deduct it from their taxes."

This quote consummately embodies the mindset of those who advocate for more and bigger government. They seem to believe that Oklahomans have access to an unlimited supply of cash and they will continue to spend and donate, regardless of how high tax rates soar.

Of course, this mindset ignores a very basic law of reality: Oklahomans can't give what they no longer have to give.

Had this plan gone forward, I believe there would have been a decline in charitable giving -- an outcome that would have had a dramatic impact on Oklahoma charities.

Jason Murphey
@JWMurphey