• Oklahoma lottery won't ever play major role in school financing

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Oct 30, 2014

    TEN years ago, Oklahoma voters approved the state lottery. Although originally touted as a way to “do something big for education,” most news coverage today notes a general disappointment with the lottery’s impact. This was largely unavoidable: While lottery proponents clearly overpromised and under-delivered, even without the hype many people would have had unrealistic expectations. First as a state senator, then as governor, Brad Henry was the lottery’s most visible proponent. He’s also responsible for some of the inflated figures associated with the lottery. As a senator, Henry suggested a lottery would generate up to $500 million annually for schools. As governor, he said it could raise $300 million.

  • Policy impacted by outcomes of state legislative races

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Oct 30, 2014

    REPUBLICANS have a good chance to win control of the U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s elections and thus take the reins of the federal legislative branch. That would be an important victory for conservatives, but the impact will be limited: So long as President Barack Obama is in office, only modest policy gains are likely in Washington. Outside the Beltway, though, it’s a different story. The state level is where political party control can generate the most significant policy shifts — even though state legislative races are often an afterthought for voters. Major policy changes began occurring in Oklahoma as soon as Republicans won control of the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2004.

  • Study shows why eminent domain should be narrowly tailored

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Oct 29, 2014

    EVEN in the best circumstances, the use of eminent domain generates controversy. A new study illustrates why use of that governmental power should be narrowly tailored. The nation’s most famous instance of eminent domain led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Kelo decision in 2005. In that case, the town of New London, Conn., used eminent domain to take properties for eventual resale to a private developer, who planned to install a hotel, shopping center and retail/office space. The Supreme Court ruled that governments could use eminent domain to take property from one set of private owners and sell it to other private citizens in the name of economic development.

  • On corrections, Oklahoma lawmakers can't have it both ways

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Oct 29, 2014

    THE Oklahoma Department of Corrections budget request for the next fiscal year prompts the question: Will state policymakers ever seriously entertain policies that might help this state spend less on corrections? If the answer is no — and there’s been little evidence to date that lawmakers are fond of prison reform — then those same lawmakers must be willing to break open the checkbook. Current trends can’t be addressed without additional money. The DOC last week said it will ask the Legislature for about $85 million more next fiscal year, with a good chunk of that ($26 million) to be used to help deal with an inmate population that continues to grow. For the first time, the offender population in Oklahoma has topped

  • Oklahoma third-grade reading results justify state concern

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Oct 28, 2014

    CRITICS of Oklahoma’s third-grade reading law, which requires students to repeat a grade if they read at a first-grade level or lower, claim that it’s unfair for “one test on one day” to have such consequence. Yet students who failed the test continue to fail other reading tests as well. Perhaps it’s time critics admit that the main reason state tests show kids can’t read isn’t test day anxiety. The main reason is this: Those students really can’t read! In the Oklahoma City school district, only five of the 611 students who were held back under the state law have passed an alternative test since the start of August. And the district offers nine alternative tests.

  • Cellphone program offers a glimpse of what Obamacare could become

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Oct 27, 2014

    AFTER the first round of riots in Ferguson, Mo., residents were offered help in meeting basic needs during a time of disruption. We noticed that most of those waiting in line to have their basic needs met were talking or texting on cellphones. Having a cellphone is a basic need, it seems, and we don’t begrudge anyone the convenience and security that mobile telephony offers. The question before us today is this: Who pays the bill? Government programs to offer cell service at free or reduced cost are ripe for fraud. Claire McCaskill, a U.S. senator who represents Ferguson and the rest of Missouri, has termed the Lifeline Program as “one of the most fraud-infested programs ever conceived in the federal government.

  • Some Oklahoma political candidates dilute party differences

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Oct 27, 2014

    RELATIVELY low turnout is expected in Oklahoma’s November elections. Partial blame lies with state politicians, some of whom are going to odd lengths to dilute any distinction between the political parties. Take George Faught, a Republican running for election to a state House seat near Muskogee. Faught previously represented that area, compiling a generally conservative record before making an unsuccessful congressional run. Yet now Faught touts the endorsement of former state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett, a prominent Democrat whose two decades in office weren’t associated with conservative policy. Take state Sen.

  • Oklahoma congressional delegation likely to look similar after Election Day

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Oct 26, 2014

    DUE to an unusual confluence of events, every seat in the Oklahoma congressional delegation was up for grabs when candidate filing began in April. In theory this meant that all seven seats could have changed hands after the Nov. 4 election. Won’t happen. In fact, the 2015-16 delegation will probably look a lot like the 2013-14 version. And that’s a good thing. The 2014 election for federal offices would have included one U.S. Senate post and the five U.S. House seats. U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s early departure created a seventh opening. The five House seats were to be on the general election ballot, but District 1 incumbent Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, was re-elected without opposition. In the 2nd, 3rd and 4th districts,

  • Oklahoma initiative petition process needs to change

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Oct 26, 2014

    SINCE 1998, only three statewide initiatives out of more than two dozen attempted wound up making their way to the ballot in Oklahoma. That’s not exactly the sort of direct democracy the state’s founders championed. The most recent failures occurred last week. One would have asked voters if they wanted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The other would have let voters choose whether to use $500 million in bonds to fund school storm shelters. Both came up well short of collecting the required number of signatures. In Oklahoma, efforts to amend the state constitution require petition backers to gather signatures equal to 15 percent of the turnout for the last gubernatorial election — in this case, about 155,000

  • ScissorTales: Ray Vaughn, Butch Freeman, Willa Johnson merit re-election in Oklahoma County races

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Oct 25, 2014

    HIGH-profile races for governor and seats in the U.S. Senate have dominated the 2014 election season, but other contests will be on the ballot as well. In Oklahoma County, this includes two commission seats and the county treasurer’s office. Two additional races were kept off the ballot because no candidates filed against Republican County Assessor Leonard Sullivan or Democratic District Attorney David Prater. In District 3, County Commissioner Ray Vaughn, a Republican, is seeking a third term. Vaughn has been an outstanding commissioner and was an outstanding state lawmaker before that. Vaughn led efforts to acquire a former General Motors assembly plant and incorporate it into the Tinker Aerospace Complex, a massive job

  • Are Democrats in California learning a tax lesson?

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Oct 24, 2014

    OFFICIALS in the Democrat-dominated state government of California hope that reducing the tax burden of certain businesses will lead to job creation. Is this a sign of the Apocalypse? Not quite. It’s just another example of liberals being mugged by reality. Lest anyone get too excited, California isn’t cutting its state income tax, which still tops out at a highest-in-the-nation 13.3 percent. Instead, the state is expanding tax-incentive programs for film and TV productions, particularly for visual-effects work. A new law, signed this year but taking effect in 2015, authorizes $330 million in incentives over five years, which is three times the amount previously allowed. Tax credits for visual-effects work will soon cover

  • Officials at OU, OSU ably handle difficult challenges

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Oct 24, 2014

    FIRST and foremost, Oklahoma’s colleges and universities are centers of learning. But college life also is enriched by athletics and other nonacademic pursuits. Allegations of wrongdoing or mismanagement in these peripheral programs should be taken seriously. Leaders of the state’s two comprehensive universities have done just that. The University of Oklahoma faced controversy over the alleged shortcomings of the marching band director. After students used full-page newspaper ads to voice their frustrations, OU President David Boren struck down participation agreements that had prevented band members from publicly criticizing the program. Boren also met with student band members. On Thursday, band director Justin Stolarik

  • Ballot initiatives add spice to otherwise lackluster election season

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Oct 23, 2014

    FRACKERS, guns and money. Drugs, too. That about sums up ballot initiatives this year, adding spice to an otherwise lackluster election season. Scott Shackford of reason.com says the “endless, exhaustive, never-ending analysis” of which party will next control the U.S. Senate is tiresome. Regardless of the outcome, not much will likely get done in Washington over the next two years. In many states and in some localities, however, ballot initiatives are exciting the voters. But not in Oklahoma. The three state questions on the 2014 ballot are housekeeping measures related to military service. What could have been up for a vote were issues such as marijuana legalization and a statewide school storm shelter bond issue.

  • GAO report undermines prison savings claims

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Oct 22, 2014

    ONE argument for expanding Medicaid under Obamacare is that Oklahoma could “save” money by shifting costs to the federal government, including payment for the care of inmates in prisons. A new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office indicates this claim is overstated. Under Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, the federal government will supposedly cover at least 90 percent of costs for those added to the program (although less for those currently eligible). This expansion group would include most prison inmates. Currently, state government pays all the costs of medical care for inmates. This is one reason a Leavitt Partners study predicted that the Oklahoma Department of Corrections would save $118 million through

  • Some pay raises for Oklahoma agency directors are questionable — and so are some agencies

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Oct 22, 2014

    TERRI White makes $173,000 per year as director of the state’s mental health agency. It could easily be argued that she’s worth every penny: White professionally and passionately runs an agency with a budget in the $350 million range that’s tasked with addressing Oklahoma’s myriad mental health and substance abuse problems. White formerly made $133,455 annually. Her 30 percent jump in pay came during the past fiscal year and was among the raises — some of them quite generous — given to 48 agency directors by their various boards. These have drawn criticism from Gov. Mary Fallin and other politicians who note that many of the same agencies have complained in recent years about their budgets being kept flat or

  • Blanket spending increases don't automatically translate into reduced school challenges

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Oct 21, 2014

    A new report suggesting Oklahoma’s state education funding has been reduced by a greater amount than any other state since 2008 has prompted a predictable response from those who always claim schools are “financially starved.” But the report leaves unanswered a more important question: Exactly where should additional funds be directed to best improve educational outcomes? The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, calculated per-pupil state-appropriation spending in 2008, and then adjusted it for inflation and student population growth. By this measure, Oklahoma’s current state-appropriated funding is 23.6 percent less than what it would be had the 2008 rate been maintained.

  • We can help our hungry neighbors in Oklahoma

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Oct 21, 2014

    QUIRKY diet fads don’t mean much to an estimated 675,000 food insecure Oklahomans. Most of them don’t count calories; many can’t even count on the next meal. This is an ongoing challenge and probably has been since the dawn of time. To the state’s credit, and in conjunction with the Oklahoma Standard, many gladly open their hearts and wallets. With the holiday season on the horizon, Gov. Mary Fallin is asking for the public’s help with her fifth annual Feeding Oklahoma Food Drive. She wants to raise enough for 2 million meals. The effort, continuing through Oct. 31, takes canned goods and monetary donations. To know more, visit www.feedingoklahoma.org. The governor isn’t the only one concerned with the hungry.

  • Pay of Oklahoma school superintendents is an issue that merits scrutiny

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Oct 20, 2014

    STATE Reps. Todd Thomsen and Lee Denney are outraged that a school superintendent in Oklahoma is earning a very healthy salary. To which we respond: They’re just now noticing this? Thomsen, R-Ada, and Denney, R-Cushing, note that John Cox, superintendent of the Peggs district in Cherokee County, is paid $141,678. The state average for superintendents is $76,424, based on figures from the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. Apparently, Oklahomans are supposed to think it coincidental that these GOP lawmakers became concerned about superintendent pay only weeks before the election for state schools superintendent. Cox is the Democratic nominee in that race.

  • Oklahoma state officials must remain diligent in Ebola efforts

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Oct 20, 2014

    STATE officials say Oklahoma has a “well-oiled machine” in place to combat Ebola if the disease arises here. Let’s hope that statement isn’t a triumph of hype over substance. The governmental track record in responding to Ebola elsewhere provides little reason for outsized confidence. In Dallas, a nurse who treated an Ebola patient from Africa contracted the disease despite reportedly wearing protective gear. A second Texas health care worker has also tested positive for Ebola. In a statement, National Nurses United portrayed efforts to prevent the spread of Ebola at the Dallas hospital as haphazard at best. The nurses’ group claims medical officials were provided “no advanced preparedness on what to do with

  • Oklahoma agency doesn't need feds' help in studying pipeline safety

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Oct 19, 2014

    PATERNALISTIC progressives, personified by President Barack Obama, seem to think every problem has a federal solution. Only Washington can fix things. This is why the EPA overregulates the energy and utility industries. Big Brother doesn’t always know best. Environmental and safety regulations can be handled at the state level. This includes regulation of hydraulic fracturing and injection wells, as well as pipeline safety. State regulators don’t necessarily see industry as the enemy. The same can’t be said of Obama’s EPA or other agencies under his control. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is doing a good job of looking into the injection well-seismic activity link allegations. It’s now engaged in pipeline