Monday, May 22, 2017

Keep up with the Capitol news with this handy page

David Van Risseghem of SoonerPolitics.org created Capitol Chatter, a Facebook page to keep track of events and news at the State Capitol. With the ongoing and ever-changing budget negotiations, this informative page will help keep you in the loop.

You can view some of the latest posts below. Be sure to 'like' the page on Facebook in order to keep p with the latest.




Music Monday: Double Bass Concerto No.2 in B minor

This week's Music Monday is Concerto No. 2 in B minor, by 19th century Italian composer Giovanni Bottesini. A double bass virtuoso himself, this piece by Bottesini is one of the rare works in orchestral and classical music to prominently feature the double bass, the largest and lowest of stringed instruments.

Enjoy!



Click to go below the page break to see all previous Music Monday posts. Do you have a song you'd like to suggest for a future Music Monday? Email me at JamisonFaught@MuskogeePolitico.com.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

OKGOP Chair Pam Pollard comments on budget negotiations

This afternoon, OKGOP Chair Pam Pollard posted her take on the state budget situation, as negotiations between Republican and Democratic leadership appear to have stalled once again, likely setting up a special session (either after the regular session ends next week, or concurrent with the current session). Here's what she said:


My take on the budget negotiations. Please note I am NOT a legislative or budget expert. I know what I see, I know what I hear and I know the "players."

My BIGGEST take away is that the 26 member Democrat Caucus, lead by candidate Scott Inman, has changed their position multiple times throughout this session and have now set their feet in stone to raise taxes on job creating businesses and Oklahoma taxpayers, keeping an increase in personal income taxes on the table.

Republicans are frustrated that they have no oversight over agencies' spending and while they want to CUT spending, they cannot control where the cuts will be applied. Republicans believe in living within your means, and if you don't have the money, then you cannot continue spending at the same rate.

This is where POLITICS enters.... and Oklahomans suffer.

The Governor is right. Many agencies have been cut to the core and cannot handle another across-the-board cut. Many Republican Legislators believe the most vulnerable citizens will suffer without targeted line item oversight.

POLITICS!!

I asked every lawmaker I could find, WHERE can the cuts be made? Like I said, I am not an expert, but I asked the questions many of you have asked me. Have we tried to cut first? What cuts were rejected? Is raising fees and taxes truly the only option?

The answer to my questions was an overwhelming sense of frustration knowing they have little control over the majority of state spending.

I witnessed meetings in offices, in hallways and in stairwells talking about how to manage spending! For that, I am proud of our Legislators!

The political game being played is very simple. Republicans want to make cuts. Republicans have recommended many cuts. Many cuts have already been made to businesses knowing that we the consumer will pay higher costs.

But we must understand we cannot balance the budget on spending cuts alone. We must have some revenue increases to have a sustainable budget.

The Republicans have the votes to make cuts as it only takes a simple majority. But because of SQ640 it takes 3/4 of the Legislature to pass any revenue increases. That means we need 76 votes. Republicans have 73 votes, Democrats 26, 2 seats are unfilled

The Democrat Leadership (candidate Scott Inman) is holding the entire budget process hostage by controlling his 26 members' votes unless we agree to their terms for an increase in revenue.

Yes you heard me, the Democrats who hold 26 out of 101 seats are holding the entire process up and forcing us into a special session unless they get their way. They've learned well from the national Democrat Party!!!!

To prove what I'm saying about the political games being played, please see the video below when last February Inman did a press conference demanding GPT be raised to 4%. That is exactly what Republicans are offering today!!!!

In the negotiations of the last few days candidate Scott Inman refuses to vote for the budget agreement unless there is an increase in the gross production tax to 5%. If we agree to 5% will he demand 6%?

Please see for yourself how candidate Inman and the Democrats have turned this into political gamesmanship and then call the Democrat leadership and demand they negotiate in good faith and end this budget crisis.



I hope our Legislators hold the line on a balance of what is best for Oklahoma children, families and yes, job creating businesses.

- Pam Pollard, Chairman OK Republican Party

Friday, May 19, 2017

Russell Turner: The Hard Choice


THE HARD CHOICE

Last week I wrote a column that was very critical of our Governor Mary Fallin; while I do not want to be accused of beating a dead horse, the issue of the state budget needs to be of concern to every citizen of Oklahoma. In a recent article Governor Fallin threatened to veto any budget that that contains deep cuts to state agencies. At a Capitol news conference surrounded by state employees, heath care providers, agency heads and others, she made the comment that she has had to make some hard votes because the citizens of this state are demanding that no agencies or core services will have devastating cuts. I have noticed that politicians such as Fallin like to surround themselves with doomsday prophets that, for the most part, feed at the public trough. I have also found that making hard choices with someone else’s money is a whole lot easier than making hard choices with one’s own money. Making hard choices is definitely not limited to the government class; I would like to share the kind of hard choices we in the private sector have to make every day.

We in the private sector experience budget shortfalls every day; things can be going on just fine then a piece of essential equipment in the operation can break down and we are forced to resolve the problem in short order. In my case I have a farm tractor that developed some serious problems, with the hay season coming up it was imperative that I ether purchase another one or repair the one I have. Like the state of Oklahoma I did not have the funds to purchase a new tractor, so that option was ruled out. Taking the tractor to a repair shop would have been another option, but because the labor cost was prohibitive, another option was gone. Finally I decided to roll up my sleeves and do the work myself. While other people are better tractor mechanics than I am, I was able to get the tractor back in operation with a lot of hard, greasy work and several scratched knuckles.

I, like many other small business owners and farmers, have to make these kinds of hard decisions on a daily basis. It seems to me that many people in government cannot comprehend the hard choices we in the private sector have to make. We simply don’t have the money to do all of the things and purchase the nice new equipment that we would like to. Mary Fallin has been throwing a fit for the legislature to impose massive taxes on the hard working people of this state, I am sure that if she graduated from Tractor University like I recently did, their ideas and policies would get more down to earth. I want to make the point very clear, the private sector farmers and small businessmen do not have the financial reserves to absorb additional taxes. I have some more equipment that needs to be worked on, if any of our elected officials have the belief that everything is just fine out here in the real world come to my shop and I will help you gain the perspective that so many in office are lacking.

Russell Turner is a businessman, farmer, and conservative Republican activist from Adair County, where he served one term as county commissioner.

Brian Walters Announces for Senate District 45 Seat


Republican Businessman Brian Walters Announces for Senate District 45 Seat

South Oklahoma City businessman Brian Walters announced today that he will be a Republican candidate in the special election to fill the vacant Senate District 45 seat.

“Given the financial problems our state government faces, we need people with real-world experience dealing with large-scale financial forecasting and budgeting,” Walters said. “I have an extensive background in financial planning and business development. That quality is glaringly lacking at the Oklahoma Capitol, which is one reason the state keeps generating huge shortfalls year-in and year-out.”

Walters is owner of an estate settlement service company, helping families deal with the challenges of addressing business and estate issues after losing a loved one. Prior to that, Walters was Director of Finance and Administration for a farm equipment company, overseeing more than $100 million in revenue. In that position, he developed analytics and benchmarks for monthly operating results and financial reviews including budgets, revenue and inventory forecasts. Throughout his career, he has been responsible for financial operations at several business organizations.

“I don’t agree with politicians who claim Oklahomans are undertaxed,” Walters said. “I believe state government’s fiscal problems are primarily the result of our politicians’ poor financial practices and the failure to match spending with revenue. I know what it takes to develop budgets for large operations and produce results, not deficits. I will work to do the same thing for state government.”

A lifelong Republican, Walters believes his strong core conservative values – pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-free enterprise – strongly match those of District 45 voters.

Walters previously served on the Oklahoma City Council from 2007 to 2011, giving him an understanding of government finance and processes as well as his extensive private-business expertise.

Walters is active in the community, serving as president of his home owners’ association and treasurer of the Westmoore High School Boys Soccer Booster Club.

Walters earned both his undergraduate business degree in finance and MBA from the University of Oklahoma. He is actively working toward becoming a Certified Public Accountant.

Walters, 41, and his wife, Kindell live in south Oklahoma City. Walters has two teenage children: Alex and Ashton. They attend LifeChurch.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Will Friday be Taxapalooza?


Facing a shortfall of $878M, legislators have just a few days left to figure out how to deal with it. Friday, May 19th, is the final day that the Oklahoma Legislature can hear and pass any new "revenue raising" (i.e. tax hiking) legislation without going into a special session. Constitutionally, tax increases can not be introduced or heard in the final five days of session.

Gov. Mary Fallin has pushed for up to $2.6B in tax increases all session long, beginning with a $1.7B sales tax expansion. Apart from a handful of conservatives (mainly in the House), both Republicans and Democrats have had their own tax-increase proposals, but none have made it past the 75% affirmative vote threshold yet. That hurdle means that even if every Republican votes for a tax increase, some Democrat votes will be needed.

Republican legislative leadership met with Gov. Fallin and Democrat legislative leadership (that is, until House Minority Leader Inman left for a gubernatorial campaign caucus press conference) to try and hammer out a deal. We'll see what they end up putting forward during the day Friday.

At the beginning of each term, the new leadership (in Oklahoma City and in Washington, D.C.) talks a big game about openness, transparency, and allowing the public 48-72 hours to view important legislation... but when push comes to shove, budget bills like this get voted on before the ink dries from the printer, before members get to read the measure, and before the public is even aware of that vote.

The process needs to change.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

OCPA Offers Balanced Budget Plan with a Teacher Pay Raise


With just over a week until the end of the regular legislative session, some lawmakers have proposed massive tax increases, including a plan to cap personal itemized deductions that would dramatically increase personal income taxes on many Oklahoma families and small businesses.

OCPA released today a budget plan to fill Oklahoma’s $878 million budget gap and give teachers a pay raise—while respecting and protecting Oklahoma families and their own budgets.

The balanced budget plan proposed by OCPA includes more than $1.3 billion in savings—including items from OCPA’s “Freedom Agenda” published in January and “First Steps” list released in February—and $337 million in tax increases, including an increase in the tax on gasoline and diesel, a 67-cent per pack cigarette tax increase, and a wind production tax. Together, the lower spending and increased taxes add up to nearly $1.7 billion.

This budget plan would fully fund a $1,000 teacher pay raise for K-12 public school teachers as well as the elimination of personal income tax for classroom teachers. Base pay and income tax are the main reasons cited by teachers that leave Oklahoma for states like Texas.

OCPA PROPOSED LIST OF REFORMS 

(click to view larger)