Capitol Greetings October 28, 2016 Representative Ben Loring

            The State of Oklahoma is under the super majority control of self-proclaimed “constitutional conservatives.”  The vast majority of both houses of our legislature claim that moniker for themselves.  The Governor and every other statewide elected official profess the same political orientation.  I’m not sure what it means.  I’ve studied it and I find many different interpretations, but they all seem to focus on various federal issues, not state issues.  It concerns me that state officials are concentrating on federal issues and not the state issues they were elected to deal with, and that they don’t know the difference.  Regardless, the constitutional conservative super majority has had the complete control of this State for eight years now and the citizens are suffering the consequences.

            Some may not like that I said that.  The constitutional conservatives themselves and all of their fans claim the only reason Oklahoma is suffering right now, the reason our unemployment rate exceeds the national average and the reason Oklahoma has cut our investment in education more than any other state in the union is simply because of the price of oil, a worldwide commodity over which the State has no control.  But that is simply not true.  Let us look at the facts: in 2014, before oil crashed, when the oil prices were at an all-time high (also cattle and wheat prices were at or near their all-time highs), Texas and North Dakota were banking billions of dollars.  But not Oklahoma; we were $200 million in the hole and had to cut services.  Why?  Because of the policies of the constitutional conservatives.  Texas had kept its severance tax at 7%, North Dakota at 11%, but that super majority in Oklahoma had slashed ours from 7% down to 1%.  Then we got smart and doubled it all the way up to 2%.  That, with other credits, incentives and rebates the super majority gave oil companies resulted in other energy states having oil money flooding into their state coffers while it just trickled into Oklahoma’s before oil prices crashed.  The result: North Dakota was adding more money than any other state into their education system (31.6% increase) and building roads and bridges.  At the same time, Oklahoma was cutting our education system (23.6% decrease) and pulling back on infrastructure.  Then in 2015, our deficit was $600 million and in 2016, $1.3 billion.  The current estimates for next year are between a $600 - 700 million deficit.  Further, it could be worse as, so far this year, every month except one came in well below the estimates that the budget was based on, for example, September’s  general revenue fund receipts were 12.4 % less than the estimate.  To make matters even worse, in the heights of hypocrisy and absurdity, Oklahoma’s super majority in 2016, lambasted Congress for our national debt, and yet they authorized the State to borrow $200 million to “balance” our budget.  I hate telling them, borrowed money does not balance the budget, it puts the State in debt.

            And it is not just in education where Oklahoma is hurting.  In health, dozens of rural hospitals are closing, cutting services or filing bankruptcy. The mental health system is broken because the super majority would rather incarcerate people with mental health problems than treat them. Consequently (and there are also other reasons), the prison system is overcrowded and understaffed. We have a unsustainable worker compensation system; sure it saves the corporations millions of dollars but it pays the injured worker next to nothing, often leaving them with medical bills from their work injuries that forces them into bankruptcy.  The point is, don’t get injured or die on the job in Oklahoma!

            I could go on and on how the super majority has shifted the costs of running the state from the wealthiest corporations in the world and the wealthiest Oklahomans,  those that write the big fat campaign contribution checks, to the hard-working Oklahoma families.  The super majority is squeezing the middle class out of existence in Oklahoma and picking on the poorest Oklahomans to fund the multibillion dollar tax breaks, incentives and credits to those companies.

            Just one of numerous examples I could give, that demonstrates the dichotomy of how the constitutional conservative super majority treats the rich and the poor in this State, is this: last year, despite our deficit budget, the super majority left in tact the next tax cut for the benefit of the wealthiest 1% of Oklahomans scheduled to go into affect next year, but they joyously slashed the Earned Income Credit that helps low income, working Oklahoma families - and the operative word here is “working.”  And yes, I’m talking about the program to assist the poor that Ronald Reagan championed - because it works.  That hurts 3,947 working families in House District 7 alone, to the tune of $383,136.

 

 

Isaiah 10:1-3 1 Doom to you who legislate evil, who make laws that make victims - 2 Laws that make misery for the poor, that rob my destitute people of dignity, exploiting defenseless widows, taking advantage of homeless children. 3 What will you have to say on Judgment Day, when Doomsday arrives out of the blue? Who will you get to help you? What good will your money do you?