On Monday morning the two legislative chambers will convene session for one reason; Mental Health go screwed over by a budget scheme.
But the 144 who may show up will have a pile of papers on their desk. It seems that many of them decided this is the right time to fix the ills that got past the last session. Here's the Senate's list of new bills. The House will accept new filings on Monday morning. That will be especially rich reading.
To fix the budget crisis, the legislature will need to stay put until the governor has either signed or vetoed every engrossed act. They may need to deliberate a veto override. That means a session will take at least 10 days under the rosiest of scenarios. So any distraction will add govt. waste to the already dysfunctional process.
This legislature grossly violated the state constitution. Then they forced the Attorney General's office to waste even more money defending the indefensible before the court. The state agencies are all in limbo over the incompetence.
This in no way implicates each member of the legislature of incompetence, but it certainly applies to the leadership of both houses and the governor's administration.
UPDATE: The income tax code ideas of the leadership are evidently fluid. Some reports now say that the initiative is being pitched as a simplification which will bring us closer to a flat tax concept. My newest sources now say that personal exemptions will not be eliminated, but the special carve-out credits to the select few, are going to be replaced by a lower rate on everyone. You may not be able to deduct the mortgage on your second house at the lake. If you power your speedboat on cow manure, you may not like the reform, but for the mainstream rest of us, it will be less painful. The completed package will not be ready on Monday. It may not even be ready at all until February.
It would play into Scott Inman's narrative of class warfare for a good reason.... it is! By the same token, Inman's proposal to hammer the oil producers with a tripling of the gross production tax is also a class warfare antic. The Democrat's don't show any sign of capitulating of capitulating or even modifying their position. They may even circumvent the legislature by circulating their own initiative petition for raising Petroleum Gross Production Tax to the full 7% via an election day vote of the people. this type of populism may prevail, especially if the Republican leadership keeps playing into their hands at every turn.
UPDATE: Rep. Echols explains that most media got some wrong essential facts on the reform he's addressing. He says the bill he's authoring addresses the fleets of trailers that Walmart and other carriers now register in Oklahoma. He says that the policy has helped bring in national commerce in the long run, but the legislation from last spring created a problem with the state's strategic initiative in how trailers are registered. Senator Mark Allen is advocating the same carve-out, with SB 44x.
Rep. Bobby Cleveland is also seeking to give a favored constituency a special carve-out on car sales tax. His HB1x wants some veterans and their widows to get a pass on the car tax. Cleveland voted for that tax. It narrowly passed, and was narrowly allowed by the high court. The only reason it got the 5th vote in the high court is because Justice Gurich strongly believes the founders hated the idea of carving out exemptions to a favored few. Yet Cleveland wants his favored few to be added to the protected class.
- Noticeably missing from the discussions and filed bills is the concept of letting folks pay for their own college education and saving nearly a billion dollars. Or even a modified reform whereby state 'PAL grants" are targeted toward poorer families who seek to attend college. If the money follows the student, state colleges will compete with the private colleges at market-driven rates and wealthy Oklahoma families quit getting a welfare benefit toward a college degree.
- Another missing reform is the adjustment of public school class size caps. Oklahoma spends more per student on teacher pay than San Diego does (about 8% more). But because class sizes are about 16.3 students, we can't pay enough to each teacher. If the aggregate class size was the same as San Diego, we could pay teachers a $10K annual raise and still cut the state education budget.
- No one seems interested in writing an "anti-swag" bill. It appears they all were grandstanding.
Let's look at some bills worth our attention.
- Freshman Senator, Paul Scott, did file a bill to cut all agencies' administrative budgets by 25%. It's worth commending only because it's one of few bills which focus on living within our means.
- Senator Josh Brecheen has a great reform bill which ends corrupt practices by municipalities and other local govt. bodies. His SB 48x makes all "Pass Through" bonds subject to legislative approval. Until now, local politicians have declared some private corporate development bonds as "municipal" and therefore tax-exempt. It has robbed the state of dividend income tax money. Too often the developers were awarded these declarations in return for campaign contributions. He also filed SB 49x, which cuts the targeted tax credits listed on our income tax returns by 25%, this next year..
- Senator Michael Bergstrom filed a similar bill (SB 50x), which cuts most income tax credits by 25% for this next income tax year. If you don't know which credits are included, take out your Oklahoma Income Tax form 511. Oklahoma has a massive list of special credits for favored classes of people. Instead of targeting any one group, Bergstrom cuts them all by 25% to make up for some of our shortfall. Yes, it does effectively raise revenue. But we have way too many carve-outs and we need to end this practice so we can cut everyone's tax rates, instead.