Senator Lankford in The Tulsa World: Tax reform is working For Oklahomans

By: Senator James Lankford

Just before Christmas, Congress passed and the President signed into law, a tax reform bill that makes major improvements to our tax code. It’s only been two months, but tax reform is already working for Oklahomans. 

Many companies across the nation and across Oklahoma are using their tax savings to reinvest in their employees and add new equipment. It feels like almost every day there are new stories of employee bonuses and increased wages announced for workers.

American Airlines announced $1,000 bonuses for every employee, excluding officers, in the total amount of $130 million. Nationwide Insurance gave $1,000 bonuses to 29,000 employees and increased 401(k) matching contributions for 33,000 employees. Verizon announced it will give its employees 50 shares of stock each — a benefit that amounts to more than $2,600 per worker. Disney also joined the growing list of employers who are giving $1,000 in cash bonuses to its employees.

Tulsa’s AAON Heating and Cooling Products announced that employees will receive a $1,000 bonus because of tax reform. Clinton’s Elmer Smith Oil Co. and its subsidiaries paid bonuses to more than 300 employees. Express Employment Professionals, in Oklahoma City, announced it would pay a $2,000 bonus to more than 200 non-executive employees.

BancFirst raised employee wages for hourly employees. IBC Bank is reinvesting in its business. PumpsOK plans to hire new salaried employees at more than $50,000 per year. Advantage Controls plans to spend $1.4 million on a new building, which will create construction and supplier jobs; and it plans to hire 30 new employees within three years. H.E. Anderson purchased a new company vehicle and expanded its facility. Shawnee Milling Co. will invest in new equipment and is expanding jobs.

I could go on and on. According to the Americans For Tax Reform’s running list, more than 3 million Americans and counting will receive a bonus as a result of tax reform.

For working families in Oklahoma, tax reform made significant changes that will really help. Every tax bracket was reduced, and the standard deduction for individuals expanded from $6,500 to $13,000 and from $12,000 to $24,000 for married couples. It eliminated the “Obamacare” individual mandate penalty tax to provide families with much-needed relief and flexibility to buy the health insurance that fits their needs.

Tax reform also maintained the Earned Income Tax Credit to provide important tax relief for low-income Americans, and it provides support for graduate students by continuing to exempt from taxes the value of their reduced tuition. Tax reform also expanded paid family leave by incentivizing businesses to offer workers up to 12 weeks of paid family leave with a tax credit as big as 25 percent.

The law included a little-known provision that will help low-income distressed communities across America and Oklahoma. The law creates “Opportunity Zones,” which draws private long-term investment to low-income communities by allowing companies and venture capitalists who invest in the zone to avoid capital gains taxes. If the zones succeed, they could help revitalize neighborhoods and towns that are starved for investment.

Historically, the American economy has grown at 3 percent or more a year, on average. However, in the last 10 years, economic growth has collectively averaged under 2 percent, and last year, our GDP only grew by 1.5 percent. That means the economy was growing at not even half of its historic potential, which is completely unacceptable. We need a strongly growing economy that will increase production, jobs, and wages for Oklahomans. I am confident the economic growth from this tax reform bill will not only increase wages, but it will pay for itself and help pay down the federal debt over time if we can convince Congress to stop overspending.

Congress did something that hadn’t been done in more than 30 years. In the days ahead, many Oklahomans will notice more money in their paycheck. Thanks to tax reform, we will not only see Oklahomans keep more of their hard-earned money, I remain optimistic that we’ll get the economy growing again.