Oklahoma’s November tax collections contained both good news and warning signs. Sales tax collections for the month were 8.4 percent higher than the prior year; motor vehicles tax collections were 2.2 percent higher. Both figures are signs of continuing consumer confidence in Oklahoma. On the downside, low energy prices made net gross production taxes nonexistent, and individual income tax collections were down 5.4 percent. Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger noted total collections for the fiscal year to date are $33 million above the estimate. Still, he warned that if the federal government goes over the “fiscal cliff,” it could have dramatic impact on the state economy. The governor’s office is drafting a state budget responsibly prepared for federal cuts of $137 million to $200 million. Oklahoma’s economy is faring well, but warning signs are on the horizon. Haphazard federal fiscal policy could easily plunge us back into recession. Stay tuned.
Twelve years ago this week, Al Gore conceded the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush. His concession came more than five weeks after the bitterly contested election that introduced us to Florida’s “hanging chads” and spurred a call for nationwide election reform. Twelve years later that call remains, because so many states continue to have problems on Election Day. This year, some voters in Miami — what’s in the water down there? — had to endure seven-hour waits before casting their ballots. We’ll leave the calls for reform to other parts of the country. Oklahoma experienced a few snags while breaking in new voting machines, and there were pockets of long lines related mostly to precinct staffing. But on the whole our system works well, and has for many years.
With Republicans holding a 72-29 edge in the state House of Representatives, Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, had his hands full just trying to placate all his GOP colleagues when naming committee chairs and vice-chairs. That’s why it is notable Shannon made a point of including Democrats. Rep. Anastasia Pittman of Oklahoma City was named vice-chairman of the Human Services Committee. Rep. Donnie Condit of McAlester was appointed vice-chairman of the Long-term Care and Senior Services Committee. Rep. R.C. Pruett of Antlers was named vice-chairman of the Tourism and International Relations Committee, and Rep. Cory Williams of Stillwater is vice-chairman of the Tax Credit & Economic Incentive Oversight Committee. Vice-chairmen have little real power, so the appointments are largely symbolic. But given the Republican margins, they still represent a goodwill gesture Shannon didn’t have to make, and show a willingness to work with those who may disagree with him on issues.