At 9:00 am on February 5th, the House Finance and Tax Committee heard HB 1530 which would create a “legacy income tax reduction fund” using the voter-approved Legacy Fund to lower and eventually eliminate state corporate and personal income taxes. That afternoon, after a minute and a half of discussion, the committee rushed and approved the bill without debating its impact nor its merit.
Rep. Craig Headland sponsored the bill and chairs the Finance and Tax Committee. As Chair, he schedules the hearings and decides when to take up debate on a bill. It was Headland who wanted his bill rushed through committee without debate. Need proof? Below is the audio of when the committee took up the bill for “debate” on the afternoon of February 5th.
While the microphone was on, you can hear a male voice asking Chairman Headland how he would like the committee to handle his bill. “How do you want to handle this?” can be heard. Headland responds quietly with “Make a DO PASS and let’s move on.” Vice Chair Grueneich, who may have been the one whispering to Headland, moved a DO PASS. A minute of fawning from fellow committee members followed before the vote came down 11-2-1.
Why focus on the rushed process of Headland and the House Finance and Tax? Because it isn’t the first time Headland has rushed a tax bill through his committee without allowing adequate time to fully understand the long-term impact on state finances. A similar rushed process was used in the final days of the 2015 session when the Legislature rushed a cut to the oil extraction tax. Headland, who Chaired the same House committee rushing the oil tax cut at that time, grew angry when people pointed out the lack of debate and forthcoming information of the bill’s long-term impact. Instead, he admitted to background conversations and decisions being made on the outcome of state finances away from the public and behind closed doors. At the time, Senator Rich Wardner admitted, “If everything were the same, the revenue under the new tax rate would put less money into the oil tax buckets.” They knew the cut would reduce revenue, but they either didn’t know or want to admit at the time it would be over $550 million dollars they left on the table over approximately two years. It was rushed.
Process matters. Some may say this process of hearing and moving on a bill the same day is used in other committees during the session. Sure, but those decisions typically aren’t as sweeping as this bill’s aim. Why the rush on such a big decision? The concept of using the Legacy Fund merits a robust discussion. Should the Legacy Fund be used to offset personal and corporate income taxes?