April 2008 Column Winner

Understanding state 'Quality Jobs' law

By J. Leland Gourley, OKC Friday

Oklahoma's lawmakers were among the first in the nation to enact what we call our "Quality Jobs" act.

Since then, some other states have also passed similar legislation.

The act provides a payroll tax exemption for a limited period of time (5 years mostly) to companies who would create new jobs for Oklahoma workers.

It has been working great to get industry to locate here.

Literally thousands of jobs have been created in and for Oklahoma, at least in part, by this program.

The truth is the tax exemption actually causes no loss whatsoever to the state, simply because we would not have had the jobs -- and the subsequent payroll taxes - any way if we hadn't lured the new jobs.

So, it is a win-win-win situation. A good deal for the employer and a good deal for the state and a good deal for our own Oklahoma workers getting the new jobs that otherwise would not have existed here.

The law is not unfair to existing employers already in the state. They, too, have qualified for the program by being encouraged to expand and create more jobs within.

But the state made a terrible mistake in the management of the job.

Instead of telling employers to just exempt those taxes on their annual return, the state told them to pay the full taxes and the state would then rebate that amount to the employer.

That caused a hue and cry among some malcontents, who claimed the state was losing tax income by all these rebates. They even called in "corporate welfare."

The problem was in that dirty word, "rebate." This great big check from the state coffers being handed over to this greedy, evil corporation, bleeding the taxpayers' treasury.

It really is not a rebate. It is an exemption that costs the state nothing because, without it, we would not have had those jobs, or the tax requirements.

Some folks have complained about the Sonics NBA team qualifying because the job isn't "manufacturing." That's nuts. A job is a job, whether it's minimum wage or a million bucks. Just because the team owners are loyal Okies doesn't mean they should have to pay a tax exemption any more than others. We ought to be glad they want to bring us those good jobs.