THE idea of reducing or eliminating Oklahoma's personal income tax needs more study. It would result in transferring money to the rich from the poor. It isn't as important to business as supporters believe.
The arguments of Democratic lawmakers opposed to the Republican push to cut the income tax? No. Instead, these are the opinions of business and chamber of commerce officials.
Oklahoma Policy Institute, no fan of an income tax cut, cobbled together comments made in recent months as the various tax plans made their way through the Legislature. Lawmakers from each side of the aisle urged caution, as did economists. But so too did business leaders.
Former Republican House Speaker Chris Benge, now vice president of the Metro Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, said the benefits of a cut “may be limited” if doing so affects the state's ability to maintain roads and bridges, or “educate and train employees for a 21st-century economy.” Scott Meacham, former state treasurer, said our current tax structure hasn't held the state back. “And that's what you always gotta be careful of when you start getting political solutions to problems that may not really exist.”
Roy Williams, CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said companies look not for the cheapest locale, but for “the place where they believe they get the best value for what it is they invest in and the cost that they pay.”
Food for thought as lawmakers continue their work on this issue.
Few Oklahoma school districts needed to take snow days this year. The teachers union didn't take a bogus snow day for a political rally. The Oklahoma Education Association is, however, staging a rally Saturday in the shadows of the state Capitol dome. It's ostensibly nonpolitical. Unlike earlier teachers union rallies, it's not specifically designed to boost teacher pay. The focus has shifted to public schools themselves. But teacher pay and education spending can't really be separated. Material used to generate interest in the rally includes remarks by actor Matt Damon on the value of teachers. Not mentioned is Damon's profanity-laced defense of public education in a July 30 interview last year. That kind of language will get you some time off from school, with or without snow in the forecast.
In the debate over OETA, supporters often cited children's educational opportunities and the potential loss of “Sesame Street” as a reason to maintain funding. But on the House floor, it turned out senior citizens' support of OETA and voting power may have been even more persuasive. “The last I checked, they're the vast majority of the people that vote,” said state Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “They're the ones that go to the polls every time.” Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, reminded his colleagues that senior citizens “constitute 38 percent of all the qualified and active voters in this state,” and predicted that “99 percent of that 38 percent are going to tell you, ‘Yes, keep OETA.'” The bill passed 53-28. The blue-haired Cookie Monster might be Big Bird's friend on TV, but apparently blue-haired voters were his protectors in the Legislature.
Stories about the adverse environmental impact of wind energy are made in media heaven. What could be more toothsome than reports tying wind farms to bird deaths, scenery stealing and disturbance of animal habitat? Aren't these things in the exclusive realm of oil, gas and coal? Apparently not. The latest news, from an academic journal called Nature Climate Change, says the massive windmills contribute to global warming by heating up the earth around the base of the 250-foot towers. This is particularly true at night. Since many large wind farms are in the drier Western states, this should be of concern, right? No worries. Parking lots, roofs and highways have an impact on local area heating. Many activities of daily human living do. Whatever adverse impact wind farms have in the small area around them is not that significant and is certainly offset by the benefits of wind energy. In today's world, there's no such thing as a free lunch or a free range.
Elizabeth Warren, minority? That's a question being raised in Warren's campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in Massachusetts. An Oklahoma native and recent inductee into our state's hall of fame, Warren's ancestry was the topic of a recent Boston Herald story about an article that ran in the Harvard University newspaper in 1996. In that article, regarding students' concern over a lack of diversity among the faculty, Warren was cited as Native American. The Boston Globe reported, meantime, that law school directories from the Association of American Law Schools from 1986-95 listed Warren as a minority law professor. A genealogist subsequently looked into it and found that Warren's great-great-great grandmother was Cherokee — making Warren 1/32nd American Indian. Unknown is whether this will have a bearing on her tight race with Republican incumbent Sen. Scott Brown.
The National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle became the latest setting for an ideologue to proclaim tolerance while simultaneously spouting intolerant remarks. Keynote speaker Dan Savage, founder of the It Gets Better Project, used his anti-bully platform to blatantly attack Christians. When an already vulgar speech crossed the line, a group of students walked out. Savage heckled and cursed them. His movement, with the message of spreading hope to bullied LGBT teens, has reached over 40 million viewers with its YouTube videos featuring contributors ranging from Hollywood stars to President Barack Obama. The group's pledge declares, “Everyone deserves to be respected for who they are ... I'll speak up against hate and intolerance whenever I see it, at school and at work.” Sounds like Savage needs to work on practicing what he preaches.
Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy theorists lost one of their champions with the passing this week of Hoppy Heidelberg. Heidelberg, a rancher in Blanchard, served on a federal grand jury that investigated the bombing but was removed for violating confidentiality rules. He later formed a “citizens grand jury” to investigate the bombing, and went on to make speeches around the country about his conspiracy theory. Heidelberg ran for state Senate in 1996 and for governor in 1998 as a Reform Party candidate. During that campaign, he was escorted from the stage by two University of Oklahoma police officers after interrupting a debate between Gov. Frank Keating and the challenger, Democrat Laura Boyd. Heidelberg once said the U.S. Constitution “limits the jurisdiction of the federal government to the high seas and the District of Columbia.” As governor, he said, “I might be generous and allow them jurisdiction over military bases and Indian reservations.” Heidelberg died Monday at age 72.