Monday, February 3, 2014

Governor Fallin Calls for Another Tax Cut When State is Already $572M below FY 2009 After Inflation

In November 2010, the Republicans in Oklahoma got what they wished for -- total dominance of state government.  Little did most Oklahomans including this one realize just how bad it was going to be but many of us do now.  When I read the review of Governor Fallin's State of the State from Oklahoma Policy, I went through the roof.

Oklahoma has $170M less dollars to spend this year if not more then that by some estimates and the Republican Governor wants to cut taxes and Medicaid after refusing to take funds from the Federal Government from Medicaid through the ACA.  If this is not an ALEC agenda, I have never seen one.  No wonder she got the 'prestigious' award from ALEC at their convention.

Oklahoma Policy Institute speaks for me and many other Oklahomans on the Fallin budget:
STATEMENT: Governor Fallin’s budget would make bad situation worse
by  | February 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Budget | 
Oklahoma already faces a difficult challenge this year to balance the budget without harming important services. Governor Fallin’s proposed budget takes a bad situation and makes it worse. 
As Governor Fallin calls for another tax cut, the budget is already $572 million below FY 2009 after inflation. Oklahoma has jumped from a budget shortfall in a national recession to an equally serious shortfall of our own creation.
Especially troubling is that at a time when Medicaid needs new funding just to continue existing services, the governor suggests cutting state funding for Medicaid while continuing to refuse federal funds. This would be devastating for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable children, seniors, and disabled Oklahomans, as well as a blow to rural hospitals and other health care providers throughout the state. 
The only way to avoid devastating cuts this session is to preserve existing revenues and reign in unnecessary and increasingly unaffordable tax breaks, starting with those for horizontal drilling.
When you read that Oklahoma is $572M below FY 09, you realize how much having the Republicans in control of all of State Government has cost the Oklahoma taxpayer and what do we have to show for it?  The Legislature spent $5.2 million to renovate their conference rooms and offices at the state Capitol while the building's exterior continues to crumble. (OK Policy) OK is #1 in states since 2008 in percent of cuts to public education students, #49 in teacher pay of #50, #7 in handouts from the Federal Government, and now we have a shortfall of over $172M.  That means that since 2009 when the GOP became fully in control of the legislature and then took over all of State Government in 2011, Oklahoma has been losing money each year while at the same time less is being spent on education and infrastructure.

That is no way to run Government but then you also shouldn't be passing bills that you know are unconstitutional to cost the taxpayer even more tax dollars.  Oklahoma has to rank up their as one of the most poorly run states but then Oklahoma has the distinction of being the #2 state nationwide for ALEC passed bills.  That is a dubious honor.  

The most highly touted bills in this legislature once again are social issues with #1 being abortion, then more gun rights, and then should pot be legalized in Oklahoma.  Get your popcorn ready for #3!

OK already ranks #7 in what Oklahoma takes from the Federal Government but they want to be seen as refusing Medicaid help under ACA like they are self sufficient.  Gov Fallin is the same Governor who doesn't seem to get it that Federal takes precedence over State Law like on the recent fiasco in Oklahoma with gays in the National Guard trying to get spousal benefits.  Fallin's answer -- cancel spousal benefits for all!
Oklahoma, by contrast, has stopped processing spousal benefits for everyone, apparently figuring it doesn't count as discrimination if you treat everyone equally badly in order to be allowed to treat some people badly. 
FALLIN: Oklahoma law is clear. The state of Oklahoma does not recognize same-sex marriages, nor does it confer marriage benefits to same-sex couples. The decision reached today allows the National Guard to obey Oklahoma law without violating federal rules or policies. It protects the integrity of our state constitution and sends a message to the federal government that they cannot simply ignore our laws or the will of the people. 
Actually, the federal government can and often does supersede state laws. That's not generally controversial except among secessionists. For instance, several states have laws on the books saying they don't have a minimum wage, or have one below the federal level of $7.25. Yet despite state law, the minimum wage in those states is $7.25 an hour. Or take interracial marriage. At the time the Supreme Court decided Loving v. Virginia, Oklahoma had a state law against interracial marriage; that law was effectively struck down by the Court's decision. Fallin's implication that it would somehow be unprecedented for Oklahoma to have to do something it doesn't want to do because of the federal government is twisted and moronic, and as Think Progress points out, the vast majority of funding for the Oklahoma Military Department comes from the federal government to begin with.
The hypocricy of Oklahoma Republican elected officials know no bounds when it comes to trashing the President and the Federal Government.  We have some people in this state who do not understand that Oklahoma is #7 in the line for handouts and refuse to believe the facts.  This comes from Oklahoma Policy as the Number of the day to back up the #7 for handouts:
43 cents 
February 3rd, 2014 
The portion of each dollar the state of Oklahoma spent in FY 2011 that came from federal funds, the 7th highest percentage in the nation. 
Source: Oklahoma State Treasurer
There is little hope that the anti-Obama contingent in Oklahoma will ever see the light about the GOP and the fact they are being fed lies/spin by today's Republicans.  Was told by one hard right conservative that being number 7 for Federal handouts has to be a lie pepetrated by liberals against OK -- asked them if they knew the OK State Treasurer was a Republican?  Got called a liar but what is new out of the hard right. Republicans are so mad at the judiciary for saying bills that are unconstitutional are unconstitutional that they want to eradicate Oklahoma's separation of powers.

For those not in Oklahoma, when The Journal Record writes an editorial like the one below that is picked up by AP and used as an editorial in The Norman Transcript, it is earth shattering.  You have a business journal of Dolan Media tearing into the Republican Speaker of the House which just doesn't happen.  I say Bravo to The Journal Record!

The Speaker of the House in Oklahoma is now running for the Senate seat being left vacant by Senator Coburn at the end of the year.  This editorial from The Journal Record which appeared in The Norman Transcript blew my mind:
February 1, 2014Taking giant steps backward 
Associated Press 
NORMAN — Among the thousands of bills introduced for the second session of Oklahoma’s 54th Legislature was an abominable bill filed by House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, that would eradicate Oklahoma’s separation of powers. 
House Bill 3380 would create a nine-member Board of Judicial Review who would handle performance evaluations of the state’s judiciary, from district court judges through Supreme Court justices. They would rate judges on everything from the clarity of their written opinions to the quality of their legal decision-making. The board would poll attorneys, litigants and others for their opinions on the judge’s handling of their case.
The members would also be required to take a “retain,” “do not retain,” or “no opinion” position when judges are on a retention ballot. Most voters would follow that recommendation, making the panelists the de facto electors. 
The governor, president pro tem of the Senate, and speaker of the House would each appoint three members to serve five-year terms. The only rule being the appointees could not be practicing lawyers or jurists. That means nine people with no legal training rating the quality of legal decisions throughout the state. 
House Bill 3380 would create a human resources department run by the Legislature to oversee the judiciary. Not only is it duplicitous of the smaller-government-is-better Shannon to create a new, unnecessary agency complete with support staff, it takes the philosophy of a constitutional democracy back more than 300 years. 
The notion of judicial independence goes back to 1701’s Act of Settlement in England, and French philosopher Montesquieu, who greatly influenced Alexander Hamilton and other Founding Fathers. An independent judiciary was critical to the Constitution’s framers. It remains critical to a free society. 
— The Journal Record
Let me get this straight -- the Republicans in State Government don't like rulings of judges so their answer is to make the judges do what they want them to do in order to keep their jobs to put it in simple language so everyone can understand how bad this is.

Time to get Oklahoma back on track where State Government is working for Oklahomans not ALEC, the Koch's and other wealthy donors.  Please consider voting for a Democrat for office because the experiement in Republicans running State Government has been an abject disaster for the Oklahoma taxpayer.

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