Monday, January 29, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
Five of Oklahoma’s former governors have publicly endorsed the ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ plan put forth by civic and business leaders from across the state. Former Democrat governors Boren, Nigh, Walters and Henry along with Republican Keating unanimously praised the Step Up plan. Keating said, “Paralysis and dysfunction are not credible public policies. Revenue failures damage the credibility of our state. Step Up has thrown us a lifeline. The package deserves debate and a vote.”
While the current chief executive and five former Oklahoma governors may support the Step Up plan, it doesn’t appear any of the six Republicans seeking the job in November 2018 are joining them. Raising taxes is not a popular concept among GOP primary voters, so that is not surprising.
Gary Richardson said, “A much more appropriate title for this absurd plan would be ‘Pay Up Oklahoma.’ I’m shocked to see people calling themselves Republicans advocating for the largest tax increase in the history of Oklahoma.” Kevin Stitt, also Republican said, “I respect the business people who developed the Step Up Oklahoma package, but I do not believe an $800 million tax increase is the answer to fixing a broken state government.” Echoing Stit’s praise for the group, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said, “I don't want to mislead people into thinking that my first instinct when there's a budget issue is to raise taxes. That's not my history and it's not what we've done in Oklahoma City. I see where they are and I think it's a wise thing to do to put a lot of things out there and discuss it.” While Dan Fisher hasn’t publically said he opposes Step Up, it’s a cinch he does since he has former POTUS Calvin Coolidge’s quote on his website that says, “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.” State Auditor Gary Jones agrees with some of the proposals, but opposes the lowering of the 75% supermajority needed to raise taxes by the legislature. “If they believe the revenue increase is necessary and can’t get to 75%, send it to a vote of the people where they can get it passed with a simple majority,” Jones said. Lt. Governor Todd Lamb told Payne County’s GOP organization that he opposes any tax increases, but supports the establishment of the Office of Budget Accountability and Transparency.
Keating is absolutely right- paralysis and dysfunction are not credible public policies. When conservative legislators refuse to compromise, pout and obstruct, more often than not the result is policy much worse than it has to be or no policy at all. Conservatives need to make sure they have a seat at the negotiating table and get something rather than nothing.The state legislature convenes next week and is expected to take up the Step Up tax increase plan. Supporters will claim our state’s reputation will suffer if citizens don’t pay more taxes, but the lack of resolve to find waste in state government hurts Oklahoma’s reputation more. Throwing money at government is not a lifeline, its endangerment.
Monday, January 22, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
THE REAL STEP UP OKLAHOMANS
By Steve Fair
Last week, a nonpartisan group of business, civic and community leaders released the ‘Step Up Oklahoma’ plan. It includes a plan to stabilize state revenue, reform government to increase efficiency and cut abuse and to increase teacher pay by $5,000 per year. The Step Up website lists 85 people as supporters and it is a virtual ‘Who’s Who’ in Oklahoma. To see the list, go to stepupoklahoma.com.
Step Up has ten things they want addressed. They want to lower the super majority needed for the legislature to increase taxes from 75% to 60%. They want to create an Independent Budget Office to root out waste, fraud and abuse in government. They want to increase the amount of time a lawmaker can serve from 12 to 16 years. They want to make the Governor in Oklahoma more powerful and have the Lt. Governor and Governor run on the same ticket. They also want to create a Budget stabilization Fund which would protect against budget downturns like Oklahoma government has seen the last couple of years.
First, much of what Step Up Oklahoma is proposing must be voted on by the people. The state legislature can’t repeal SQ #640 without a vote of the people. They can’t change term limits without a vote of the people. They can’t have the Governor and Lt. Governor run on the same ticket without a vote of the people. They can’t reorganize county government without a vote of the people.
Second, why do we need to establish another state agency to root out fraud and waste when we have a constitutional office now? Step Up’s idea of the Independent Budget Office controlled by the Governor deliberately circumvents the office of Oklahoma State Auditor & Inspector, who is elected by the people. A better solution would be to dramatically increase the scope and power of the Auditor’s office instead of adding another state agency that reports to the Governor.
Third, Step Up seems more intent on raising revenue than right sizing government. They want to increase gross production tax, income tax, cigarette tax, and gasoline tax. These are the same revenue proposals Governor Fallin has failed to get passed, but Step Up has repackaged them with community and business leader’s support.Oklahoma has 101 House members and 48 Senate members charged with balancing the budget each year. That is their job. While anyone has a right to lobby for any cause anytime, it appears this group didn’t just happen. It clearly was organized by elected officials to lobby for more taxes. Many of the 85 Step Up supporters wrote campaign checks to those 149 legislators they are now pressuring to vote for their proposals. It will be interesting to see if the Oklahoma legislature will bow to the pressure from the donor class. If Step Up is successful, the unemployed and underemployed in Oklahoma will be the ones that will have to step up and pay more taxes.
Monday, January 15, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
EFFECTIVE OR WORTHLESS?
by Steve Fair
Republicans have traditionally been for smaller government, lower taxes and personal responsibility. The GOP platform states the role of government is to protect individuals' rights and that individuals and society are better off when the government is less involved in citizen’s lives. The Democrat platform states that government’s role is to regulate private enterprise (banking, manufacturing, healthcare, etc) and to help the downtrodden. Simply put, Democrats believe government is the solution to most problems, Republicans believe government is the problem.
A 2012 Gallup poll showed that voters' views on the size of government align with the party they identify with. Eighty-two (82) percent of Republicans polled felt that the government was doing too much; while sixty-seven (67) percent of Democrats felt that the government should be doing more. In recent years, the difference between the two Parties has become difficult to ascertain, particularly at the state level.
Oklahoma House Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Harold Wright, (R-Weatherford) has announced he will present a House Joint Resolution (#1032) in the upcoming session that if passed by Oklahoma voters would lower the number of legislative votes needed to raise taxes from 75% to 60%. “I am proposing legislation that would put to a vote a change in the revenue-raising requirement in the constitution that would lower the requirement to 60 percent, the same as a school bond issue. Many agree that this would be a fair compromise and still make it difficult to raise revenue. There will be opposition to this measure, but I hope you will support the change in order to make your state government more effective,” Wright said. Everyone is for more effective, but it appears Wright’s proposal only makes it more effective for the legislature to raise taxes.
Currently, 76 House and 36 Senate members have to agree a new tax is needed- a high threshold but is that a bad thing? SQ #640 makes it difficult to pass a tax increase, but not impossible. Lowering it to 61 House and 29 Senate members will certainly mean more taxes. Before SQ #640 was approved in March 1992 by a 56%-44% margin, taxes went up every legislative session. If Wright’s proposal is passed, Oklahoma takes a giant step backward and will go back to trying to tax itself into prosperity, which didn’t work in our state’s first century and won’t work now.Maybe Rep. Wright doesn’t remember those years before SQ #640. Perhaps he has embraced the concept government is the solution and not the problem, but whatever his motivation, his proposal is not consistent with Republican principles or the GOP platform. The Republican leadership in Oklahoma needs to spend more time searching for waste in state government and less time trying to get more of the taxpayer’s money. The opposite of effective is worthless- that is what Wright’s proposal is.
Monday, January 8, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
GENIUS OR DUNCE?
by Steve Fair
Webster defines someone who is a genius as one that has exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability. The antonym for genius is dunce. Dunce is defined as a person slow at learning; a stupid person. Last week on Twitter, President Trump declared himself, ‘a very stable genius.’
“Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames,” he said. “I went from VERY successful businessman, to top TV Star to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius . . . and a very stable genius at that,” the President said.
What prompted the POTUS to become a self-promoter of his intellect was the questioning by the media and Congressional Democrats of Trump’s state of mind. According to statnews.com, six congressional Democrats have asked a shrink from Yale School of Medicine to consult with them about forming an expert panel to access Trump’s mental health. “It’s one thing from my non-professional, non-clinical standpoint [to] believe that someone does not have the capacity to do the job, it’s another thing to talk to experts and [those] who can deal with mental psychosis on a daily basis, so I wanted to hear from them,” Rep. Jackie Speier, (D-CA), told BuzzFeed News. Back in August Speier tweeted, “POTUS is showing signs of erratic behavior and mental instability that place the country in grave danger. Time to invoke the 25th Amendment.” So is President Trump a genius or a dunce?
First, politically Trump is a genius. No one with as little political experience has ever won the presidency. But he didn’t win it alone. He likes to take all the credit, but elections are won ‘on the ground.’ A huge reason Trump won was because Reince Priebus and the Republican National Committee had ‘boots on the ground’(people) in the battleground states. Trump would not have won without that. His genius was delivering a message that appealed to voters in both Parties, but the RNC ground forces got those voters to the polls.
Second, Trump is a shrewd businessman. Whether that translates to genius is up for interpretation, but clearly he has been successful in business. He has created 34,000 jobs in his business career and Forbes reports the culture at the Trump Company to be one that is ‘open and collaborative.’ Employee turnover is low and morale is high. That may not be genius, but it doesn’t make him a dunce either.
Third, this hoopla isn’t about Trump’s mental state. It is about his policies. Liberals will grasp at whatever straw they can to get him out of the Oval Office. The POTUS knows that and when he tweets out that he is a genius, don’t overreact. He is not a dunce. He is trivializing their attacks on his mental health. Liberals realize the days of having a career politician win the presidency may be over and that is why they are openly recruiting Oprah to run in 2020.
Monday, January 1, 2018
Weekly Opinion Editorial
TRIBUTE TO THREE GOP VOLUNTEERS!
by Steve Fair
In November 2006, Republicans statewide picked up three seats in the Oklahoma legislature. Two of those seats were in Stephens County. Dennis Johnson was elected to the State House in an open seat and Anthony Sykes was elected to the Senate, beating an incumbent. 2006 wasn’t a good year to be a Republican. Brad Henry defeated Ernest Istook in the Governor’s race. Democrats won all the other statewide races with the exception of Corporation Commission. To say that Stephens County rowed against the tide in 2006 would be an understatement. With a very visible downtown headquarters and an army of grassroots volunteers, the Stephens County GOP did something that just twenty years before would have seemed impossible- winning races. In the last couple of weeks, we lost three of those volunteers:
First Emmet Hamilton passed away in Nashville December 10th, where he had lived for the last couple of years. Emmet, 87, was Dennis Johnson’s father-in-law, but was a tireless volunteer who worked not just on Dennis’ campaign, but others as well. I remember Hamilton building a three corner frame for Anthony Sykes to mount on his jeep for his 2x4 signs and frames for Sykes’ mini billboards. Emmet and his wife Marie helped stuff envelopes, knocked doors and seldom missed a monthly GOP meeting until their health declined.
Second, Gil Jackson died on Christmas Eve. Jackson, 87, had moved to Kansas City four years ago to be closer to family. Gil served four years as Stephens County Republican Party Chairman from 2000-2004. He was a recipient of the Dr. Gerald Beasley Jr. memorial award, which is awarded annually to the most outstanding grassroots volunteer in the SCGOP. Jackson was a fireball, who was involved in virtually every local campaign for twenty years. Gil knew how to lose, because for years Republicans lost races, but he never wavered in his enthusiasm or labor. Just a year ago, Jackson re-engaged with local Republicans in Missouri and was schooling them on the SCGOP best practices.
Third, Kenneth Shaw died December 27that the age of 89. Kenneth’s wife Josephine and his granddaughter Carissa Darling (now Cassin) were regulars at monthly GOP meetings. Kenneth came to meetings occasionally, but in 2006, he really got engaged. Having a construction background, Kenneth helped build sign frames for mini-billboards and built partitions at the headquarters. Shaw was a quiet man, but there was just something about him that made you know there was a depth of character.
These three men shared more than just being engaged in a successful campaign cycle. They were all part of the ‘Greatest Generation.’ All three served in the military. All three were Christians. All three knew liberty wasn’t something that didn’t just happen.Emmet, Gil and Kenneth and lots of others were key to the SCGOP’s success in 2006. Volunteers like those can’t be replaced, but each generation must be concerned about the next. Where are the Baby Boomers, the Gen Xers and the Millennials? Isn’t it time you became involved in your government? The Stephens County Republican Party meets at 7pm the second Thursday(1/11) of each month at the Red River Tech Center. Start 2018 off right and get engaged. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.