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Port: Mendacious Democrats tell oil tax lie worthy of Trump, Clinton

By Staff | Nov 10, 2016

It’s almost over, folks. In less than a week the ugliest national election in at least a generation or two will be completed with either Donald Trump or – more likely, I’m afraid – Hillary Clinton getting a seat in the White House.

Here in North Dakota the election cycle has been far quieter, due mostly to Democrats being unable to any statewide candidates worth serious consideration by voters.

But the Democrats are trying to be competitive in a few legislative races, and to that end they’ve deployed a talking point every bit as mendacious as anything uttered this year by Trump the troglodyte or Clinton the crook.

In flyers and letters to the editor and media interviews the Democrats have repeatedly claimed that Republican lawmakers “gave away millions to oil companies,” as one mailer in the District 22 House race recently put it.

That, my friends, is a lie.

A fib.

A prevarication.

It’s simply not true.

I’m not talking about some disagreement over a fine point of political philosophy. I’m not saying this Democratic talking point is wrong because they are liberals and I am contemplating their statements from a conservative point of view.

They are wrong in a mathematical sense. Their arithmetic does not add up.

What the talking point refers to is oil tax reform passed during the 2015 legislative session. The reforms replaced our state’s previously byzantine tax structure, which included an enormous tax break for the oil industry triggered when per-barrel oil prices are low, and replaced it with a simpler, flatter tax producing a much more stable revenue stream.

Under the old code the aforementioned “trigger” would have had North Dakota’s oil industry paying no extraction tax at all so far this year. Under the new code that exemption has been eliminated. Under the current law, if the price of oil is above $90 per barrel for three months the top tax rate is 11 percent, down from 11.5 percent under the previous code.

If the price of oil is below $90 per barrel for three months the tax is 10 percent.

There is no trigger exemption, and because of that the State of North Dakota has collected hundreds of millions of dollars more in revenue than it would have.

Democrats fought this reform bitterly in Legislature. State Senator George Sinner, a candidate for re-election in District 46 where he is currently posturing as a moderate, was so incensed when fellow Democrat and Senator Connie Triplett worked with Republicans on these reforms that he demanded in a caucus meeting that she be stripped of her position on the influential Legislative Management committee.

The Democrats have been driven to distraction by this simple and common sense reform, and have cast it as a sort of gift to the oil industry.

But this is where the math comes in.

I requested from Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger’s office some details about the impact these reforms have had on oil tax payments to the state. According to the data, had the Democrats gotten their way the state would have collected nearly $362 million less under the old law through September, the last month for which the numbers are available.

That works out to over $1.3 million per day in revenues not lost, not given away to the oil industry, because Republicans acted to get rid of a massive tax exemption.

Again, Democrats say Republicans “gave away millions to oil companies.”

In reality oil companies have paid hundreds of millions of dollars more in taxes this year because of Republican-backed legislation.

Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator.

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