A strong point has been made at the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The tobacco tax hike was nullified by a 9-0 ruling of the high court. The governor and legislative leaders failed to keep their oath to defend the constitution. Many of us believe the courts still failed to defend the constitution by adding new commerce to the list of things subject to more redundant taxes, but that was a very split ruling(5-4).
We must now move forward and do a better job of managing the ship's course. The state has agencies which largely set their own course. The legislature has played the role of a divorced parent who stays away & only gets to send the scheduled 'child support checks' but never gets a 'say' in how agency resources are applied to the state's needs.
5 Ways To Reform State Spending
As a voice of the right, I'm soberly assuming a responsibility to study the process, identify the dysfunction, and actively advocate a series of solutions.
Here are some proposals I have come up with, and some of the ideas I've heard from others which deserve our support.
1. Swag Spending On Trinkets
In the late hours of the last days of the spring session, a legislative leader asked Rep. George Faught to present a cost-cutting measure which would trim the state spending on frivolous gifts. It's called 'swag'. It's money appropriated to pay for trinkets, plaques, pens, certificates, token gifts, and other such tangibles. But it amounts to $30 million.
A couple weeks later I had breakfast with a leading Democrat on that committee. He said he doesn't regret his protest, yet he now wishes he had that vote over again and even desires to cosponsor the basic idea, now. It could serve as a beginning of some refreshing bipartisanship.
2. Means Testing On Higher Ed. Support
We don't lack for higher ed. opportunities, but the way we're throwing money around is actually harming our poorer families so we can give a 'half price' college experience to thousands of wealthy families.
The federal govt. does a better job of making higher ed. accessible through a 'means-tested' PAL grant program. If the state targeted this support to a sliding scale, based upon family need, we could create a level playing field for all families and encourage fair competition among institutions to compete for our enrollment. We could still make higher ed. accessible, while saving $400 million per year, in the appropriations budget.
TU, ORU, SNU, OKWU, Randall, OBU, and other private higher ed. institutions should be relieved of the punitive treatment that our legislature is imposing on them. It's important that the funds go with the student. This is how we make government accountable to, and responsive to our ever-changing culture and innovative improvements.
3. Adjust Common Ed. Class Sizes
My baby-boomer generation commonly had 30 kids in each classroom for core subjects. Today Oklahoma's public schools have about 16 students, on average. I studied the San Diego public schools and found that they have at least 21 per class. They are able to pay their teachers $10,000 more while spending less per student on teacher pay. San Diego spends $2500 per student on teacher pay. Oklahoma averages $2700 per student.
Rep. Todd Russ has already written a bill which rewards good teachers for having more students in the room. This would make Oklahoma the envy of the heartland and attract great educators. Yes, we would need 23% less teaching faculty. That's where our state would save over $100 million, while giving teachers a massive raise in pay.
4. Line Item Mandates
Senators AJ Griffin & Roger Thompson have presented a key legislative reform which needs to be looked at and implimented where sensibly justified.
5. Stop Paying For Train Tickets To Dallas
The passenger train lobby now wants to expand the crony capital idea to Tulsa. But Greyhound Bus already offers 3 daily options with tickets starting at $15, and getting you there faster than a train can.