- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Enid News & Eagle. June 25, 2018.

- Production in Oklahoma has boomed since 2015

Oklahoma’s film industry is thriving.

The numbers from Oklahoma Film + Music Office back up that statement.

Since 2011, there have been 11,402 film industry hires in Oklahoma, with 80 communities impacted in 41 counties.

A total of 66 film and television projects have been filmed in the state since 2011, 50 of which happened since 2015.

Production spending in Oklahoma the last eight years totaled $105.1 million, with $67.6 million directly spent in the state since in 2015.

A big reason for this success is Oklahoma’s 37 percent cash rebate on qualified Oklahoma expenditures to film and television productions that are filming in the state.

Productions must have a minimum budget of $50,000, with at least $25,000 of that spent in the state.

Oklahoma’s program has a $4 million rolling cap per fiscal year, which was renewed through 2024.

The rebate program was extended in 2011 until 2014. In 2015, it was extended for another decade.

And, it’s not just the Oklahoma City metro area and Tulsa benefiting from the spending in the state.

Significant portions of the movie “Wildlife” were filmed in Enid.

“Wildlife,” Oklahoma Film + Music Office Director Tava Sofsky said, made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival this year and was one of a handful of American films to be an official selection in the 2018 Cannes Film Festival Critics’ Week in France.

Throughout the film’s pre-production and 39 production days, 298 local jobs were created, $2 million-plus was spent directly in state and communities, including Enid, Wakita, Hennessey, Ponca City and Osage County.

“Wildlife” stars Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, Bill Camp and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Enid has a bit of a film history. The 1973 film “Dillinger” starring Warren Oates, Ben Johnson and Michelle Phillips was filmed here, and crowds gathered downtown in 2009 to watch filming of the adaptation of the Jim Thompson novel “The Killer Inside Me.”

Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see the Oklahoma Film + Music Office rebate program is working for the state.


The Oklahoman. June 26, 2018.

- Sales tax ruling may not be the bonanza some envision

A U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to require out-of-state businesses to collect taxes on goods sold over the internet has visions of tax dollars dancing in politicians’ heads, including in Oklahoma.

However, the potential tax gains may be far lower than hoped. And if legislators aren’t careful, their pursuit of those collections may do more economic harm than good.

For decades, businesses with no physical presence in a state could not be required to collect state and local sales taxes on goods sold to customers in that state via catalog or online sales. Tax payment was instead required of the customer. But few customers bothered to report and pay those taxes.

Last week, the Supreme Court overturned its past rulings. Oklahoma now has the green light to require any business, anywhere in the United States, that sells a product to an Oklahoma customer to collect all local and state taxes. And other states have the right to impose the same requirement on Oklahoma businesses selling goods in other states via online transactions.

Oklahoma’s state sales tax rate is 4.5 percent, and the combined state-local sales tax rate can run as high as 11.5 percent. Citing estimates that Oklahomans spend nearly $3 billion online each year, some have suggested the court ruling means state government will receive another $160 million annually while cities and counties will receive another $136 million.

Yet those estimates are based on the idea state and local governments are collecting almost no taxes off online sales. This is false.

As Chief Justice John Roberts noted in his dissent, “States and local governments are already able to collect approximately 80 percent of the tax revenue that would be available if there were no physical-presence rule.”

Roberts adds, “Among the top 100 Internet retailers that rate is between 87 and 96 percent.” The latter group includes Amazon, which represents 43.5 percent of online sales and already collects sales tax in Oklahoma.

Thus, uncollected taxes in Oklahoma may total $70 million (or less). And that $70 million will be divided among Oklahoma state and local governments.

This means the state’s share of online sales tax collections, facilitated by the court’s decision, may be far less than what the lottery generates annually. And the lottery’s impact on education funding has been so negligible it has gone unnoticed.

Rather than hammer big online companies, the ruling will have the greatest consequence for small businesses, such as individuals who have home-based businesses to generate supplemental family income. Those individuals will now be required to comply with nearly 10,000 state and local sales tax jurisdictions - which have widely divergent rules regarding what is taxable and what is not.

Compliance costs for those small businesses are poised to surge, which will deter business activity and therefore impede economic growth.

Some argue states can exempt small businesses. But if much of the 20 percent in uncollected online sales tax involves small sellers, any exemption further reduces state-and-local online tax collections.

Politicians are hailing the court’s online sales tax ruling as a pain-free way to increase government spending. The reality may prove very different.


Tulsa World. June 26, 2018.

- Hallelujah! A politically unsatisfying court decision lets teacher pay raises go forward

The Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidated an initiative petition seeking to overturn the tax increase that funds teacher pay raises.

That’s very good on one level and less than ideal on another.

On the good side, it almost certainly means desperately needed state-funded teacher pay raises go into effect next week. That’s huge, and it deserves a well-earned “Hallelujah!” from the choir of education advocates.

After frustrating months of struggle and compromise, House Bill 1010xx wasn’t an ideal solution to the state’s school problems nor was it a complete one. But it addressed the essential first part of any such effort - inadequate teacher pay - and its results are a whole lot better than what we had before. The court’s ruling means HB 1010xx is almost certainly good to go, and we celebrate that.

At the same time, the court’s rejection of the petition on technical grounds is politically unsatisfying and it gives the forces of educational neglect a grievance to be used against further funding and reform.

Frankly, we would have preferred that the issue were determined by the voters, who we think would have backed the Legislature and given additional momentum to the effort to fund schools adequately and start addressing the other remaining problems, including the related issues of overcrowded classrooms and too few teachers.

Instead, the petition backers can claim with suggestions of conspiracy that they have been denied the benefit of popular sovereignty unjustly. That’s not true, but the HB 1010xx movement would have been stronger moving forward if it had the stamp of voter affirmation rather than the benefit of legal technicalities.

We strongly support the tax increases and the teacher pay raises and will accede to the high court’s authority to determine the fine points of law, but Friday’s ruling isn’t politically satisfying and that may make the needed next steps in the process more difficult.

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