• Oklahoma ScissorTales: Feed the Children in good hands with J.C. Watts

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Feb 6, 2016

    J.C. Watts is the ideal person to lead Oklahoma City-based Feed the Children — he's a man with a high public profile and a shining reputation and, as a former Baptist youth minister, understands the concept of doing the Lord's work. That's what Feed the Children has done since 1979, providing food and care to people across the country and around the world. Yet the charity has struggled to recover from the poor publicity that accompanied the ousting of founder Larry Jones in 2009. Several leaders have followed. Watts, 58, provides potential long-term stability at the top as president and CEO, which is highly important to any organization.

  • For Democrats, Fallin budget doesn't raise the correct tax

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Feb 5, 2016

    FOR months, Oklahoma Democrats have touted tax increases to deal with the state's $900 million shortfall. This week, Gov. Mary Fallin unveiled a budget that cuts spending but also includes some tax increases to offset cuts. We can understand Republican resistance to those tax proposals, but one would expect Democrats to cheer. Instead, some Democrats immediately condemned Fallin for meeting them halfway. Fallin's budget calls for increasing the tobacco tax by $1.50 per cigarette pack and applying the sales tax to some currently untaxed services. (She indicated the sales tax rate could be reduced even as the base of taxed items is increased.) Democrats quickly decried Fallin's proposals, insisting only income tax

  • New report underscores need for federal spending reductions

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Updated: Wed, Feb 3, 2016

    THE national debt has exploded under President Barack Obama, and is set to grow even more unless spending is brought under control. A new report from the Campaign to Fix the Debt and the Concord Coalition indicates Republican presidential candidates are facing that reality far more than their Democratic counterparts. The most recent projections from the Congressional Budget Office show that annual federal deficits will begin rising again this year, reaching more than $1 trillion by 2022 and almost $1.4 trillion by 2026. The debt held by the public is $13.6 trillion, around $110,000 per American family. It's on pace to increase by another $10 trillion over the next decade.

  • Community efforts are vital in addressing suicide

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Feb 4, 2016

    RESIDENTS in Anadarko are living through dark and frustrating times, trying to understand why four young people — one of them an 11-year-old boy — killed themselves in the span of two months. Mental health officials in Edmond have some idea what they're going through. In 2012, 13 people died by suicide in Edmond, one of the largest totals in the city's recorded history. Three of those deaths occurred within a few weeks of each other in January that year. All three teenage boys died of gunshot wounds to the head. The youngest victim was an eighth-grader. That spate of suicides led to two community summits that year to discuss the issue of suicide, and to the creation of a suicide prevention task force.

  • Front-runners got knocked down a peg in Iowa

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Feb 3, 2016

    THE Iowa caucuses provided a fascinating start to the process of choosing the Republican and Democratic nominees for president, although Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton might not agree. Trump and Clinton, the front-runners since entering their respective races, came out of Iowa limping after poor performances. Trump was bested by Sen. Ted Cruz in the Republican race, with Sen. Marco Rubio finishing a strong third. Cruz and Rubio outperformed what polling data had shown; Trump underperformed, despite turning out the vote — more than 180,000, a GOP record. On the Democratic side, the Iowa Democratic Party didn't announce until early Tuesday that Clinton had defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders in the closest balloting in the

  • Getting executions right is focus for Oklahoma AG's office

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Feb 3, 2016

    FIVE executions are now pending in Oklahoma, after the state Court of Criminal Appeals agreed last week to hold off on setting execution dates for two more death row inmates. The move by the court was proper and not surprising. That's because the next time Oklahoma executes an inmate, everything about the procedure must be beyond reproach. That didn't happen in recent examples, leading Attorney General Scott Pruitt to investigate via a multicounty grand jury. That work is ongoing. Meantime, Pruitt says he would like to see the state Department of Corrections work to obtain a license from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and for the state to consider establishing a compounding pharmacy. They are ideas that have merit.

  • Oklahoma Gov. Fallin deserves credit for ambitious budget proposals

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Feb 2, 2016

    IN the days prior to her State of the State speech, Gov. Mary Fallin promised a bold approach to dealing with Oklahoma's significant fiscal challenges. She wasn't kidding. The budget Fallin submitted to lawmakers Monday, the first day of the 2016 session, includes a plan to fund $3,000 across-the-board teacher pay raises, along with proposals to add money to the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services, and fill the pending $900 million funding gap without touching the state's Rainy Day Fund or using any one-time revenue. “We can do it,” she said more than once. Crafting a budget that reflects her desires “will require hard work and important votes,” Fallin said. “But it will be the right thing

  • Administration's push for more biofuels adds up to a lot of green

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Feb 2, 2016

    IF Oklahoma had the first-in-the-nation voting in presidential races, then perhaps wheat subsidies would be a central issue. As it is, Iowa votes first and the ethanol subsidy is a key issue. In the Obama administration, no state seems to need much help promoting fuels made with organic material. Indeed, the passion for biofuels is so intense that Uncle Sam will pay almost anything for a gallon of the stuff. Which is to say that you will pay almost anything. Consider that in 2012 the Department of Defense paid $424 per gallon for fuel derived from sea algae. That's a lot of green for a little green stuff. The Pentagon is intent on proving that its fleets of ships, trucks and aircraft don't have to rely entirely on

  • Iowa vote will provide first referendum on Trump

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Feb 1, 2016

    IOWA will occupy the center of the U.S. political universe Monday, as caucus-goers make their choices for president. This is the first step in a long selection process that ultimately will produce a nominee for the Democratic and Republican parties. Democrats will choose among three candidates (yes, Martin O'Malley is still in the race). Meantime the Republican field has a dozen candidates (if you include Jim Gilmore, who's been an afterthought since entering the race) who are hoping to use a strong showing in Iowa to propel their campaigns. The Republican race is the most compelling because of the Donald Trump factor. Trump has been a tour de force since launching his campaign in August by promising to get Mexico to pay for

  • Dodd-Frank's real-world impacts continue to harm consumers

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Feb 1, 2016

    THE Dodd-Frank financial reform law was enacted in 2010 to, supposedly, keep the mistakes of large financial institutions from producing a recession. Five-plus years later, “too big to fail” institutions are doing fine, but smaller banks and consumers are not. That's not a new observation, but it was again reinforced by new research released by the American Action Forum, a center-right policy institute. AAF concluded that Dodd-Frank has led to a 14.5 percent drop in consumer revolving credit (such as credit cards) since 2010. “Dodd-Frank's $30 billion in final regulatory costs and 72 million hours of paperwork must be borne by someone and will likely have effects throughout the economy,” the AAF report states.

  • Business as usual not an option in 2016 Oklahoma legislative session

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Sun, Jan 31, 2016

    LAWMAKERS convene Monday facing a state budget shortfall of at least $900 million. As a result, any legislation considered this year must fall into one of two categories: serious policy measures that provide a meaningful benefit to Oklahomans, and those that increase government efficiency. There's no way to avoid budget cuts. And there's no need for every government practice and program to be perpetuated in its current form. Some programs tolerated during financially flush years may need to be eliminated now to provide more money to true core needs, while others must be streamlined. As Gov. Mary Fallin told The Oklahoman editorial board last week: “It's a time for us to be bold, to do things that we talk about doing,

  • Oklahoma ScissorTales: Coalition's sentencing reform effort is worthwhile

    The Oklahoman Editorials | Published: Sat, Jan 30, 2016

    A newly formed organization plans to ask Oklahoma voters to help reduce the state's crowded prisons. This week, Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform announced a ballot initiative that would reclassify certain low-level offenses, such as drug possession and low-level property crimes, as misdemeanors instead of felonies. Money saved from having fewer of these offenders locked up would help fund programs that treat drug addiction and mental health conditions, which are at the root of much Oklahoma crime, and help pay for education and job training programs. The chairman of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform is Kris Steele, who pushed for corrections reform while Republican speaker of the Oklahoma House of

  • Despite concerns with building, gains evident in Oklahoma ME's office

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jan 29, 2016

    MOST of the editorials we've written in recent years about the state medical examiner's office have highlighted the many problems the agency has faced due to its cramped and outdated headquarters. Not all the news is bad, however. Under the leadership of Dr. Eric Pfeifer, who was hired as chief medical examiner in March 2011, the agency has been able to essentially wipe out a backlog of cases that had been the norm for years. The Tulsa World reports that the ME's office expects the 645 pending cases will be processed by March, which would allow the agency to meet the national standard of completing postmortem reports within 90 days of autopsy. Amy Elliott, the agency's chief administrative officer, credits Pfeifer's

  • This year, most candidates for president inspiring hostility

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Fri, Jan 29, 2016

    THIS year's presidential race has drawn one of the largest fields of serious Republican contenders in recent memory. Yet polling by the Pew Research Center suggests this group is proving a disappointment to many voters. There is one upside for Republicans: Voters aren't exactly blown away by the Democrat contenders, either. Donald Trump may be the front-runner for the GOP nomination, but he's not winning the broader public's affection. Pew found 31 percent of voters think Trump would be either a good or great president. But 52 percent think he would be a poor or terrible president. The good news, if one can call it that, is that more voters than not also think Hillary Clinton would be a lousy president.

  • OK policymakers will get straight talk from interim corrections director

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jan 28, 2016

    JOE M. Allbaugh told Gov. Mary Fallin, when she asked him to step in as interim director of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, that if she wanted a caretaker in the job, look elsewhere. “I like challenges in my life, and I'm a doer,” Allbaugh said this week. He stopped by The Oklahoman after reading our editorial Sunday noting that he had stepped into an especially difficult and demanding state job. It was clear during his visit that Fallin had hired a no-nonsense administrator who won't shy away from saying what's on his mind. This is perhaps to be expected from a man who has been a part of hardball politics much of his life. A native of Blackwell, Allbaugh helped get George W.

  • Ignoring Oklahoma health lab only increases cost

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Thu, Jan 28, 2016

    A vocal segment of Oklahoma lawmakers has opposed using bond financing to pay for needed capital improvements, saying it's wrong to increase state debt. Yet this drag-your-feet response to genuine needs ensures Oklahoma taxpayers face even larger bills down the road. This is certainly the case for the Department of Health's Public Health Laboratory. The lab, which has been at its current location since 1972, is charged with diagnosing, monitoring and preventing the spread of communicable diseases; providing screening to around 54,000 newborn babies each year for inherited metabolic disorders like sickle cell anemia; providing testing and consultation services for low-incidence but high-risk diseases such as tuberculosis, and more.

  • In Davos, much indignity over energy industry's 'corporate greed'

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 27, 2016

    COLIN Quinn is a comedian with a libertarian worldview. He once observed that the world's leading economists missed the last great downturn because their annual summits are held in Davos, Switzerland, where everything is beautiful and serene. Move those summits to Haiti, Quinn quipped, and reality would intrude like a September hurricane. Leonardo DiCaprio is an actor with a liberal worldview. Last week, he jetted into Davos to proclaim that the industry responsible for the jet fuel is remaking the world because of greed. The occasion was the World Economic Summit, which attracted a parade of affluent, elitist luminaries whose views are often divorced from reality. We can't let corporate greed “determine the future of

  • Oklahoma lawmaker's rainy day savings proposal is a solid idea

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Wed, Jan 27, 2016

    SEN. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, wants to dramatically increase the amount of money officials can set aside in the state's “rainy day” savings account. That won't help lawmakers deal with this year's budget shortfall, but it could help officials better mitigate the effects of future financial downturns. Under Holt's Senate Joint Resolution 44, Oklahoma voters would have the chance to raise the cap on the Rainy Day Fund to 15 percent of the total state budget. The current cap is 15 percent of the “general revenue fund certification.” The difference between those two figures is enormous. The total state budget is at least $24 billion. Yet most focus is placed on the amount of spending directly appropriated by lawmakers

  • Teacher pay is front and center at Oklahoma Capitol

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Tue, Jan 26, 2016

    THE top item on state Health Commissioner Terry Cline's legislative agenda for 2016 is to increase Oklahoma's excise tax on tobacco by $1.50 per pack. This increase would generate an estimated $182 million per year, with $120 million of that going to … teacher pay raises. To be sure, the issue of teacher pay is far outstripping all others as the session gets ready to begin next week. Republicans and Democrats alike are looking for any way possible to increase salaries for Oklahoma's educators. This ball got rolling in the fall with University of Oklahoma President David Boren's call for a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax. Backers are planning an initiative petition drive to put the question to a vote of the people

  • Movement aims to educate parents about school choice policy, options

    The Oklahoman Editorial | Published: Mon, Jan 25, 2016

    TWO years ago, Renee Alvarado Porter became aware of an Education Savings Account bill at the Legislature. The proposal would have given parents a share of the per-pupil funding the state already allocates to educate a child, and allow them to use that money to choose any education option for their child, including private school. Porter contacted the bill's author to get more information, and was soon testifying in favor of the legislation before a House committee. That bill authorized ESAs only for low- income students attending the worst public schools. “It got voted down,” Porter recalls. “And I left there absolutely dumbfounded to think about that, at the end of the day, our legislators voted in favor of