Now that the much-dreaded “big trigger” oil tax exemption didn’t kick in thanks to a modest recovery in oil prices Democrats have decided to make political hay over bipartisan oil tax reform to eliminate that trigger in exchange for lower overall rates.
Today the Democrats’ legislative leadership – House Minority Leader Kenton Onstad and Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider – have an op/ed in the Grand Forks Herald on the issue that is as hypocritical as it is downright zany.
Why hypocritical? Despite Democrats calling the oil tax reform a “doomsday” scenario during the session, Onstad actually co-sponsored similar legislation to eliminate the trigger and lower the oil taxes in 2011. His turnabout on this issue makes it seem that Democrat posturing is less about valid concerns over public policy than partisan posturing.
Why zany? Here’s an excerpt from the op/ed:
The non-activation of the trigger is just further affirmation that the Republican majority’s decision to ramrod through their massive oil tax cut in less than a week during the final days of the legislative session was never about avoiding that temporary tax incentive. It was about dramatically reducing the oil extraction tax for senseless ideological reasons that are diametrically opposed to the best interests of North Dakotans, both present and future.
Just to be clear, the trigger policy is based on the price of oil. Onstad and Schneider seem to be implying that Republicans somehow manipulated oil prices to manufacture a justification for reform oil taxes.
That’s a pretty far-out accusation. Maybe, just maybe, the fact that oil industry executives and state officials were watching oil prices in the closing days of May unsure if we were going to see a wild, potentially multi-billion dollar swing in revenues/tax burdens was exactly why Republicans pushed this reform.
Schneider and Onstad deride “senseless ideological reasons” for Republicans pushing oil tax reform, but is it not ideological for Democrats to oppose reform to hugely volatile oil tax policy for no other reason than ideological objections to even modest tax reductions?
This sums up why Democrats can’t get any political traction in North Dakota. They seem less concerned with actually governing than “gotcha” politics.