I May Have to Start Voting Democrat

‘Do you prefer tax-and-spend liberals, tax-and-spend conservatives, or tax-and-spend moderates?’

What’s the point in voting for Republicans to run the Oklahoma government? If you’d told me a few years ago that the GOP controlled legislature would have a ‘meh’ attitude about out-of-control spending in our state agencies, I would have said you were crazy. If you’d told me a few years ago that our Republican governor would be calling for massive tax increases, I would have said you were crazy. If you’d told me a few years ago that the GOP controlled legislature would be scheming to pass tax increases at the beginning of the legislative session, I would have said you were crazy.

But here we are, on opening day of the 2018 legislative session, and the Republicans are planning to bring a “quick vote” on tax increases. Of course they want a quick vote before their constituents get wind of what they’re up to and jam the capitol phone banks with phone calls to stop it.

Last May I wrote a post called Have I Traveled to a Parallel Universe, which outlines the Republican attempts to raise taxes and the Democrat opposition during the 2017 legislative session. An additional $1.50 per pack on cigarettes, six cents on each gallon of gasoline and repealing a discount for online retailers who handle sales tax remittances were some of the highlights.

Now, please don’t get the idea I’m of the opinion that Democrats in the legislature are gurus of fiscal responsibility. Hardly. Some of their proposals are even worse than those of the Republicans.

No, neither party is scoring points with me this year. Increasing my tax burden in order to repair budget woes wrought by fiscal irresponsibility will never go over well with me. To my mind, Oklahoma Democrats have always been antithetical to economic stability. This year it seems the Republicans in our state legislature are trying their best to outdo them.

So here I am in the parallel universe, watching the antics on Lincoln Boulevard and wondering by what method the Republicans will extract more of my money from my wallet over the next year.

Apparently, I’m still in that parallel universe.

Former Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn has written an opinion piece slamming the proposed tax increases. He outlines several sources of funding that are being ignored.

Recurring revenues have been raised more than $700 million the past several years. State reports show the budget gap at less than $200 million. State government operational dysfunction abounds — for example, the scandal of at least $30 million squandered at the state Health Department. Oklahomans are striving to get out of a recession. Working Oklahomans need $800 million in annual tax increases like a hemorrhaging patient needs leeches.

Opportunities are numerous for fiscally responsible governance, so tax increases are unnecessary. Robust Medicaid enrollment audits are saving states billions — Oklahoma can implement this and save more than $80 million in state-share funds annually.

Oklahoma state government cries poverty yet has subsidized, over a period spanning the last two recessions, $20 million for Hollywood and film production, including $4.6 million to producer Harvey Weinstein.

The state piggybacks the federal giveaway of subsidizing wind with state subsidies exceeding $100 million annually.

The state cheats itself by more than $100 million annually in state tribal gaming tax revenue because of its below-market gaming tax rate. Oklahoma pays tribal governments more than $50 million annually to sell cigarettes.

State pension administration reform can save $15 million annually.

Smarter and healthier spending of the more than $75 million annually controlled by the billion-dollar Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust is long overdue.

A bipartisan, bicameral oversight committee with subpoena power to conduct performance and process improvement audits and reviews of every dollar spent, with full-time and independent staff that works transparently year-round, is a must.

Plans to throw a bomb of tax increases at the problem of lack of structural and transformational reform, while well intended, will fail like previous attempts. More money and appointing better managers to a flawed structure that was built by corrupt, good-ol’-boy politicians, isn’t transformational. The $800 million package of tax increases being discussed at the state Capitol includes more than $175 million in sham income tax “reforms” that are just a backhanded way to increase taxes on working Oklahoma families. This must be stopped.

The tax increases included in Step Up Oklahoma’s package of proposals to ‘fix’ Oklahoma’s budget woes are not what I would expect to be supported by a fiscally responsible legislature, and the Republicans going for it, with Governor Fallin leading the charge. The proposals from Step Up Oklahoma have received support from Oklahoma’s five living former governors, which is not surprising since four of them are Democrats and the one Republican, Frank Keating, wouldn’t know fiscal responsibility if it slapped him in the face.

Oklahoma GOP Candidate for Governor, Gary Richardson has it right.

Muskogee Politico – “A much more appropriate title for this absurd plan would be ‘Pay Up Oklahoma’,” Gary Richardson says.  “I don’t see how lawmakers can morally justify raising taxes when it is glaringly obvious they are mismanaging the money we already gave them.  I’m shocked to see people calling themselves Republicans while advocating for the largest tax increase in the history of Oklahoma.  True conservatives need to rally together, reject the tax hikes that fund corporate welfare, and elect a Republican Governor who is truly dedicated to the principles of the party.”

Unfortunately, Richardson has as much chance of becoming governor as I do of playing quarterback in next year’s Super Bowl.

Governor Fallin is making her final State of the State address today. I don’t even have to hear it to know she is calling for more and more spending, ‘revenue’ increases and other things that no fiscally conservative governor would ever propose.

In fact, without knowing their political parties, from the actions taken by the governor and the legislature over the past year it would be easy to assume the Republicans are really liberal Democrats. If this is how the Republicans are going to run things, why not just elect the Democrats until some truly conservative Republicans run for office? If we’re going to get fiscal irresponsibility, higher taxes and liberalism, I’d rather it not come from the party in Oklahoma that is supposed to be just the opposite.

The Oklahoma Constitution, an online conservative newspaper, has an annual ranking of legislators called The Conservative Index.

After taking suggestions from conservative leaders, the staff of the Oklahoma Constitution submitted bills to a vote of the membership of the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) to determine the ten key votes. The legislators were rated based on their votes on bills involving taxes and fees, tax credits, interference in free markets, protecting liberty, and the right to keep and bear arms.

Reviewing the scores for the 2017 House is sickening. There are thirty-two Republicans who scored lower than the lowest scoring Democrat. Nine of the highest twenty-three scores were Democrats. The second lowest score was from my own representative, Tess Teague of House 101. She scored nine out of a hundred and probably would have been worse had she not missed three of the scored votes.

For the 2017 legislative session, the average score for a Republican House member is 30 and for a Democrat, 37.

Please explain to me why I should continue to vote Republican.

When the Republican-controlled legislature has no interest in controlling wasteful and outrageous spending, it’s time for them to go. When they fight for more than a year to raise our taxes, it’s time for them to go. When they plot, scheme and complain about State Question 640, requiring a three-fourths vote to increase taxes, it’s time for them to go. When their one and only plan to ‘fix’ the budget is to pass $800 million in more taxes, it’s time for them to go. When the Democrats(!) get higher scores on the Conservative Index, it’s time for the Republicans to go.

Oklahoma has a long-held reputation of being the reddest of the red states. We no longer deserve that reputation.

Where are the conservative candidates for office? Why is Pam Pollard, current chair of the Oklahoma Republican Party, not recruiting fiscally conservative candidates for the legislature? Why are the Democrats looking more conservative than the Republicans over the last year?

The two leading GOP candidates for governor are Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett and Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb. Neither have come out in opposition of more taxes. Neither have been speaking about fiscal responsibility and controlling wasteful spending.

Lamb has said he does not support tax increases, but he does support eliminating sales taxes exemptions for a multitude of services and other things. He’s speaking out of both sides of his mouth if he thinks that isn’t a tax increase on Oklahoma consumers.

Cornett is a coward. He said he does not “want to mislead people into thinking that my first instinct when there’s a budget issue is to raise taxes.” But what does he propose? He won’t say.

NewsOK – “I think first of all you have to salute the business owners who have stepped up and are trying to intervene in a statewide issue that they just don’t see being resolved in a typical way,” he said.

“And I think what it shows is these business leaders need some certainty. You can’t run a business, you can’t come up with an operating budget, know how much capital investment you’re going to need, you can’t make hiring decisions if you can’t trust the state government is going to have some sort of fiscal solution in the short term and the long term.

“I like the idea that they’re putting a lot of things on the table. I think that’s a good idea. Obviously there’s going to be some compromises along the way and I’m watching as closely as everybody else.”

And then the important part.

Cornett is hoping the state’s budget hole is filled before the next governor is sworn in next year.

“Just as an Oklahoman, I want to see some sort of concrete solution,” he said. “I’d like to see the Legislature get its act together and fix the problem that’s been created. As soon as possible.”

Mick Cornett doesn’t want to have to take a position on Step Up or tax increases. Go ahead, do a Google search and see if you can find where Cornett has taken a position on anything. You can’t. He wants the budget hole filled before the next governor is sworn in because if he is elected, he doesn’t want to have to take a position on tax increases.

The leading Democratic candidate for governor, Drew Edmondson, has expressed support for Step Up Oklahoma. Not surprising at all.

So tell me, what’s the point in voting Republican in Oklahoma if higher taxes, government bloat and runaway spending is what we’re going to get? Why keep rewarding counterproductive Republicans with reelection? Why keep a House leadership in power whose average score on the Conservative Index is an abysmal 19.5? Why reelect my own socialist-leaning representative who scored nine, when I could get a Democrat who would likely be more conservative?

In my entire life, I have never voted for a Democrat. Until some Republicans come along who deserve my vote, that may change when voting for state offices. I don’t believe in rewarding failure and the Oklahoma GOP is failing Oklahoma. Do I believe the Democrats would not fail Oklahoma? Absolutely not. Their track record is strewn with fiscal disasters. It seems the GOP is trying to out do the Democrats. I can’t vote for that. I won’t support that. I’m done.

If the Oklahoma Republican Party ever goes back to fiscal conservatism, they’ll get my vote again. Until then, my votes for state offices will go elsewhere, or nowhere at all.

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