"A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men
from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government."
(Thomas Jefferson)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

OK Legislature Wants Tax Rate Lowered -- Hurts Schools and Infrastructure

To put it bluntly I am thoroughly disgusted with the National Republican Party.  I am also not the least bit happy with the small tax cut being pushed by Republicans which helps the rich and hurts our schools and infrastructure in Oklahoma. We have some of the worst performing schools in the Nation (49th in funding and 49th in teacher salaries) and the legislature cuts  money for schools every year but they want Oklahoma Income Tax to go  from seven tax brackets to three and lower the rate which helps the wealthy. Out of this agreement came one of the dumbest comments I have read this year from the OK House and that says a lot:

Speaker of the OK House Steele: 

“I don't think it represents a tax increase for anybody,” Steele said. “This simply means that there are going to be some that don't get as much money back. It's not that they're going to be paying more — it's that they're not going to be getting as much money back.”

The way I see math is if you don't get as much back as you normally would, then you are paying more taxes. What am I missing?  This is an example of the mentality of Republicans today -- must cut taxes that in turn help the wealthy who fund their campaigns and Super PACs.  When you read the agreement, you are left with 'you have got to be kidding' because not only are our schools underfunded but so is our infrastructure for roads and bridges and now we are giving a tax cut?  Fix the State before giving any tax cuts.  Looks like the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce has been busy this session. What is with Republicans that tax cuts will solve everything?  It is stupid to cut revenue (taxes) when your infrastructure and schools in most areas would be rated poor.  Fix the schools and infrastructure and then consider a tax cut.  

Our schools are great here in Norman because we have the best Superintendent Joe Siano who can do more with less than anyone I have seen in all the school systems where we have lived due to transfers.  Norman residents are very supportive of the schools and the Bond Issues.  We have a new elementary school, Reagan Elementary, being built not far from where I live to help with overcrowding so it is a place that is willing to pay for good schools which is more then you can say for the legislature.  Norman is growing and one reason is our schools especially our two High Schools place among the Top 100 in the Nation every years.  Here is what Dr. Siano had to say in an editorial on May 18, 2012 about lowering taxes:
Now is not the time to lower taxes 
By Joe SianoThe Norman Transcript 
NORMAN — State lawmakers soon will vote on whether to lower state income taxes. Because of state law, it will be very difficult to ever again raise the state income tax if it’s cut, and state income tax is the main source of schools’ funding. There may be a proper time for cutting this already-low tax, but is that time now? 
The recession has affected every household in Norman, and the idea of lowering any tax at first blush is appealing. 
Yet citizens have consistently indicated they wish for lawmakers to make schools a greater priority, and they are opposed to tax cuts that negatively impact their schools. 
Oklahoma is 49th in the nation in student funding. Schools are receiving $253 million less from the state than they were before the recession and, to make matters worse, significant cuts to Oklahoma schools’ federal funding is to occur next school year if Washington gridlock persists, resulting in $600,000 less for Norman Public Schools alone. 
State leaders adding a state income tax cut on top of our current school challenges is troubling.
It would be one thing if state income tax reductions spurred economic development, but state economists indicate there’s little correlation. National presenters at a recent economic development summit in Norman stressed that relocation decisions are based on corporate taxes, the education level of the work force and quality of life factors.
A recent State Chamber survey of top business leaders found education to be the single most important element of economic development in Oklahoma. So, let’s discuss as a state how we create jobs and stronger communities through greater investments in our students, not cutting the main source of their schools’ funding. 
Some state leaders appear dug in, arguing in recent weeks that schools are fine with $253 million less and higher student populations. Because of supportive parents and dedicated faculty, NPS students continue to achieve, with both high schools last week being ranked by U.S. News and World Report in the top 5 percent of the nation. 
Yet we could do so much more at NPS and in all Oklahoma public schools if state leaders didn’t confuse simply maintaining our strained infrastructure with actual progress. Treading water prevents drowning, but it doesn’t get us closer to the shore. 
NPS serves 1,000 more students today than it did in 2008, yet it receives $5.5 million less from the state. NPS faculty and staff are working harder with much less to serve students. 
Now isn’t the time to cut our schools’ main source of funding. It’s time for parents to really engage with their elected leaders. And, it’s time for elected leaders to do as University of Oklahoma President David Boren and others are urging: Ask themselves what kind of future they want and make the authentic investments in education necessary for all citizens to progress and move Oklahoma forward. 
Dr. Joe Siano is superintendent of Norman Public Schools and president-elect of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators.
I agree with Dr. Siano 100%!  How can you argue with the facts that Oklahoma schools are 49th in funding?  It shows in some of the rural schools when you visit their towns that their schools are in bad shape.  I cannot wait for Dr. Siano to take over a President of the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators.  Maybe he can do for Oklahoman schools what he has done for Norman.  It is time that Oklahoma took education seriously instead of expecting the status quo which is horrible in some areas of the state and puts their students at a disadvantage if they want to go on to higher education.   Been involved with schools for years when my three children were in school and this notion that public schools are horrible is the fault of not only the school district but the PARENTS who let it happen.  Demand quality education and you will get it unless you live in the 49th state in funding public schools which says Republicans running the legislature care about as much as the Democrats before them who never considered education a priority.

Then we have this from the bi-partisan Oklahoma Policy Institute:
STATEMENT: Tax deal sets wrong priorities for OklahomaOK Policy Blog - Fri, 05/18/2012 - 15:25 
Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to the tax plan from Governor Fallin and Republican legislators: 
We are glad to see that Governor Fallin and legislators have backtracked significantly from the most reckless tax cut proposals they put forward earlier in the year. The current plan preserves the income tax, reduces taxes by a fraction of what was originally proposed, and retains important broad-based tax breaks for working families. 
However, Senate and House leaders have insisted for months that any tax cuts must be revenue-neutral so as not to impact the budget. This plan falls far short. It would reduce state revenues by over $100 million at a time when schools and other core services are struggling to recover from years of crippling budget cuts. This means fewer teachers and larger class sizes, higher tuition costs, fewer public safety officers, and less resources for those who serve the most vulnerable Oklahomans. It also leaves us on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in payments to oil and gas producers and does nothing to address the skyrocketing costs of these credits. 
We are especially disappointed that the plan includes a trigger to automatically ratchet down the top income tax rate in the future. As a bipartisan group of Oklahoma’s most prominent business and civic leaders has stated, deciding tomorrow’s tax cuts today ties the hands of future legislators, makes them less accountable to their constituents, and limits their ability to make the best decisions based on the circumstances that they face. 
We hope legislators will reject this flawed proposal and instead produce a plan that does not reduce funding for core services and leaves future tax decisions to future legislatures.
The original plan for the tax cuts included doing away with all deductions including for dependents which was the most stupid plan I have seen.  If this keeps up the Democrats could make up ground in the fall in Oklahoma.  What tells me is that we need a viable Third Party because the two party system is failing right now.  I cannot believe that Republicans are so narrow minded in my state to even consider education cuts as a way to balance the budget.  They have convinced themselves that poor schools are the result of the unions which is not the case.  This is not a state which values education or we wouldn't be ranked 49th in funding.  Do they want to look ahead to the future or go back in time where the powers at be controlled the lives of the citizens who went along? 

When you read what the tax cuts actually entails from the Tulsa World, you are left with why are they doing this?  

OKLAHOMA CITY - About 54 percent of Oklahomans would owe less next year under a recently announced tax-cutting proposal, figures released Friday show.

About 21 percent of taxpayers would see no change, and about 24 percent would see an increase, according to figures compiled by the Oklahoma Tax Commission and released by the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
The average reduction in taxes would be $60 in tax year 2013 and $69 in 2014.
Rep. Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said the measure will increase taxes on those who can least afford it. He said the measure runs counter to State Question 640, which voters approved in 1992. SQ 640 requires that tax increases receive three-fourths support in the House and the Senate, or go to a vote of the people. 
"The intention is honorable," Dorman said. "But it does raise taxes on a significant number of people. I think we should go back to the table and come up with something that benefits all Oklahomans." 
Lawmakers are playing a shell game, Dorman said, with a measure lowering taxes for the rich and increasing the burden on working-class Oklahomans to keep election-year promises.
Steele said he didn't think the proposal ran counter to SQ 640. 
"This represents a net tax decrease," he said. 
While some may not get as much back in their refunds, they will not be paying more, the speaker said.
When State Question 640 was passed it was not intended to be net but if anyone had increase in their taxes.  We pass a State Question and the leader and others in the House ignore the results.  This is sure to end up in Court and cost our state more money because the Republicans cannot follow the rules at the State Level either.

I support NO tax cuts for anyone until education is fully funded and we are no long 49th in funding for schools and our infrastructure of roads and bridges is fixed as we rank second when it comes to terrible roads and bridges from a study done last September.  We rank 49th in education funding and 49th for roads and bridges and yet our Legislature wants to cut the tax rate?  Beam me up Scotty!

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