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OK Dem Leader Flip-Flops On Energy Taxes, Positioning For Gov Race

House Democrat Leader Scott Inman is fixated on the governor’s mansion as lawmakers wrangle over the state’s budget

Since publicly announcing his plan to run for governor last month, Democrat House Minority Leader Scott Inman has repeatedly stalled budget negotiations by attempting to increase the state’s oil and gas industry tax. Recently, The Oklahoman editorial board warned that raising this tax “could turn the current state recovery back into a recession.”

However, Inman may only be advocating for an increase because he’s now focused on his run for higher office. In the past, he actually defended the tax, and wrote in a May 2010 op-ed that low taxes were necessary for making Oklahoma attractive oil and gas drillers:

However, while in the process of suspending some credits, we need to be careful not to stunt investment in our state, especially as it relates to the energy industry. In that regard, I am joining others who recognize the economic vitality a robust natural gas industry generates for our state. Natural gas, more so than wind and coal, contributes mightily to the coffers of the state of Oklahoma through the gross production tax. Without continued drilling activity in our state, the funding for our education system and county governments would be even worse than it is now – hard to imagine, but true.

Natural gas, more so than wind and coal, contributes mightily to the coffers of the state of Oklahoma through the gross production tax. Without continued drilling activity in our state, the funding for our education system and county governments would be even worse than it is now – hard to imagine, but true.

We must maintain incentives to promote drilling for natural gas in Oklahoma. We have to compete against other states with tax credits and incentives aimed at attracting capital and investment away from Oklahoma.

Our economy in Oklahoma runs on energy. Natural gas producers can choose where to drill. We must keep Oklahoma competitive.

As House Democratic leader in 2014, Inman said his caucus was unable to support a gross production tax on horizontal drillers, later on chastising Republicans for wanting to raise the tax.

House Democratic Leader Scott Inman, Del City, questioned why Republican leaders were backing an increase in the tax, when they usually argue that, “If you want more of something, tax it less.”

Fast forward two years later and Inman flip-flopped, calling for “indexing the gross production tax to the price of oil” in March 2016. He would continue to endorse that position until a week before he announced his gubernatorial bid.

Merely a week before his political announcement last month, Inman started calling for the production to be raised “immediately to 5 percent.” Since then, he has been all over the board when it comes to the tax.

On April 26, 2017, Inman called for increasing the tax to 7 percent for all wells but the very next day he offered up raising the tax from 2 percent to at least 5 percent. The very next week, he called for increasing the tax between 5 percent and 7 percent. That same week, he flipped back to increasing the tax to 5 percent. The Oklahoman editorial board later wrote that Inman suggested a 6 percent increase.

“At that same meeting, Inman declared the state would reap $180 million for every 1 percentage point added to the gross production tax rate, suggesting the rate should be increased from an initial 2 percent to 6 percent.”

Days later, Inman backed a 5 percent increase of the production tax while also endorsing a plan to shorten the 2 percent tax rate for 3 years to “six or 12 months.” Inman would later flip back to a 7 percent tax on discounted wells. Days after flipping to 7 percent, he turned around and proposed a new tax rate of 5 percent with contingencies:

Democratic Minority Leader Scott Inman has proposed raising the tax to 5 percent for the first 36 months of production, 4.5 percent for the first 18 months or 4 percent for the first 12 months. The rate would revert to the traditional level of 7 percent after the initial time expired.

While Scott Inman continues to lack a defined position on the state’s gross production tax that has stalled budget talks, it appears that he’ll continue to trumpet his flawed argument in an attempt to score political points in his run for higher office.