Monday, May 1, 2023

Gamesmanship was first practiced in Genesis. It's not new!

 Weekly Opinion Editorial


by Steve Fair


     Gamesmanship is defined as the ability to outsmart the competition.  Gamesmanship was first practiced in negotiation in Genesis.  The serpent used deceptive tactics to convince Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  Synonyms for gamesmanship are artfulness, cunning, bettering, and cageyness.  Gamesmanship is often considered an asset in politics.  If you can outfox or outwit your political opponent in order to achieve your goal, you are considered an effective politician. 

     This week, Governor Kevin Stitt vetoed twenty state senate bills as retribution for the state senate not passing his tax cut and education ideas.  The vetoed bills were not related to either of those two subjects.  Stitt did it as a form of ‘gamesmanship’ to get the attention of the senate.  The veto messages the governor attached to each said: “Oklahomans elected me to advocate on their behalf and fight for the taxpayer.  I take this responsibility seriously and so I cannot, in good faith, allow another year to go by without cutting taxes and reforming education.”  Stitt went on to say until the senate passes tax cuts, gives teachers a raise and pass school choice, he will continue to veto bills that originated in the senate.  Most of the legislation Stitt vetoed is not legislation he opposes.  Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) supports the governor’s decision to veto the senate bills.  Clearly Sen. Greg Treat, Senate President Pro Tempore, doesn’t agree.  Three observations:

     First, a veto should never be used as a negotiating chip.  The Bible says a person’s yea should be yea and their nay nay.  In other words, a man’s word should be his bond.  He shouldn’t use cunning cagey tactics to get an advantage on his fellow man.  By his own admission, Stitt doesn’t oppose the majority of the bills he vetoed.  The governor clearly misused the power of the veto.  Vetoing these twenty pieces of legislation was nothing more than a political stunt.  That should never be done by principled elected officials.  Elected officials are charged with working with the other branches of government for the betterment of citizens.  During his two terms as president, George Washington vetoed only two pieces of legislation.  Stitt vetoed ten times that in one day.   

     Second, this veto stunt will cost Oklahoma taxpayers money.  The legislature (House and Senate) will now burn manhours at taxpayer expense to override vetoes (2/3 majority) on non-controversial legislation.  That is not a good spend of time for lawmakers.  It is unnecessary double work that risks good legislation not becoming law.  Oklahomans didn’t give the GOP super majorities in both chambers and a Republican governor to create a logjam or to put on a circus act.  They expect them to work together and get something done.  Stunts and gamesmanship are not what Sooners deserve or expect.  If you didn’t know better, you would think the house, senate and governor were from three different political parties.   It is not a good look for Oklahoma.  

     Third, Oklahomans do deserve some tax relief.  With a $1.2 billion dollar surplus, taxpayers have overpaid and they need to get some of it back- permanently.  The legislature and governor have argued too long on the details of tax relief.  It needs to get done this session.  If taxes are not cut, voters must hold their elected officials accountable at the next election. 

     Stitt and the legislature should try using these three principles in negotiation: (1) Be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and resources, (2) Make ethical decisions on how to negotiate, (3) Recognize that all parties should walk away and not feel like they were cheated.  In good negotiations, everyone wins.    

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