Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery

Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery - December 3, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Charles Caleb Colton was a colorful guy. First a member of the Clergy, spending twenty years with the Church of England between Devon and London, he was known as a gifted clergyman with an “eccentric, indulgent disposition.”

His eccentricity led him to a life of writing, gambling and wine collecting. His role as a cleric was cut short when allegations arose that he was a “wine merchant” and he fled to the United States where he wandered the American countryside for a couple of years in the mid 1820’s. Colton’s was supposedly an incurable gossip whose most famous work was “Many Things in a Few Words,” a scathing account of history’s political and religious leaders.

For all his antics, Colton’s most famous quotation “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is particularly relevant as Oklahomans observe the policies and economic theories that both state and federal elected officials are moving toward.

It seemingly began in Kansas as the tax rate for many businesses in Kansas was dropped to zero and the individual income tax rate on high wage earners was cut from 6.4% to 4.9%. As a result of those cuts, Kansas’ revenues decreased by more than $650 million causing schools to go to part time instruction, road repair projects were delayed and programs for poor children, disabled and elderly residents were reduced.

The theory was that these tax cuts would stimulate the Kansas economy and thereby pay for the tax cuts. They didn’t.

Not to be outdone, Oklahoma reduced income taxes from 7% to 5% and cut Gross Production Taxes on oil and gas produced in Oklahoma from 7% to 2% decreasing Oklahoma’s revenue by more than $1.2 billion per year. Consequently, scores of Oklahoma schools are on four day school weeks, provider cuts to health care providers have closed hospitals and ambulance services and developmentally disabled programs are at risk as are nutrition programs in schools and senior centers.

The theory was that these tax cuts would stimulate the Oklahoma economy and thereby pay for the tax cuts. They didn’t.

Governor Fallin refused to allow thousands of low income working Oklahomans access to health care coverage through Medicaid, even though their employers do not provide health insurance coverage. Essential state programs have been cut. The devastation caused to the rural health care industry has put Oklahoma’s rural economy into a tailspin. Agency budgets have been slashed as a result of these irresponsible cuts and now instead of reversing tax cuts on the oil and gas industry and high income earners, the Speaker of the House and the Governor fiddle while Rome burns.

Fortunately, there are other federal funds that provide health care and nutrition for children of impoverished families and aged and disabled citizens are the last vestige of hope that many have. In fact, Oklahoma relies on the federal government for more than one-third of its budget.

Oklahomans whose lives depend upon the federal government may soon be in double jeopardy.

Despite the abject failures in Kansas and Oklahoma, a move now exists in Washington D.C. to “stimulate the economy” by cutting taxes on high income earners so that the money that is placed in the hands of corporations will “trickle down” to the middle class. Sound familiar? With a super-heated stock market showing corporate valuation at an all-time high and corporations sitting on billions of dollars of capital, are they the ones who need a tax break to stimulate our economy? It would seem that consumers whose wages have been stagnate and purchasing power has been sliding for the past forty years ought to be receiving the stimulation.

Oklahoma’s tax cuts have been used to justify cuts to services and benefits. When the federal government follows suit and uses decreased revenue as the basis for privatizing social security, turning Medicare and Medicaid into block grants and dismantling nutrition and infrastructure programs, Oklahomans will have no place to turn.

While Charles Caleb Colton said “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” he only had it half right. Oscar Wilde made the more astute statement when he said, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

Thanks you for allowing me to serve. If you have comments or questions, please call 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

All Generalizations Are False

All Generalizations Are False - November 26, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Mark Twain often quipped that, “If you don’t read the newspaper you are uninformed, and if you do you are misinformed.” Along these same lines, he remarked that, “All generalizations are false, including this one.”

Americans are a better people because of Mark Twain and the slightly cynical, but always spirited insight that he relayed to us. His observations make us engage in critical thinking and realize the danger of closing the book on any subject.

A favorite quote often attributed to Mark Twain is that, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” Well, Oklahoma is in trouble and Twain the philosopher hit the nail on the head.

This past week Governor Fallin perpetuated the false narrative that Oklahoma’s Public Schools are somehow to blame for the state’s budget crisis. Her Executive Order directing annexation or consolidation of public school districts and district administration is the classic example of repeating an untrue statement long enough that people start to believe it.

The constant battering of Oklahoma’s schools is a favorite pastime of those groups who have longed sought to undermine public education in favor of private schools, charter schools and voucher programs that direct public tax dollars to corporate interests.

Those anti-public education forces continue to allege that Oklahoma has too many school districts; or too much of Oklahoma’s education budget goes toward the costs of administration; or school administration consolidation and school district annexation is the solution to increasing teacher pay. There is no factual basis for those statements. In fact, those statements are unequivocally false.

We need not go further than the Red River to discover the truth. Time and again, Texas is held up as an example of educational efficiency. While Texas does have 5.1 Million students and only 1233 school districts that has little to do with efficiency. More than half (2.6 Million) Texas students are in only 49 school districts while the other 2.5 million students are in 1178 districts and 35% of all Texas school districts have an enrollment of less than 500 students.

A February 2006 post-consolidation study by the Texas Public Policy Foundation regarding the relationship between school district consolidation and public school efficiency was weak at best and antithetical at worst. Research furnished little evidence that consolidation controls costs or improves academic achievement.

The most enlightening part of the study concluded that small schools provide greater educational benefit than their large school counterparts and that researchers found that large schools and districts have more bureaucratic and administrative costs while experiencing lower attendance, lower grade point averages, lower standardized test scores, higher dropout rates, and more problems with violence, security, and drug abuse.

The study cited a 2005 Deloitte Research and Reason Foundation paper that found that nationwide as the number of school districts declined more than 60 percent from 1960 to 1984, the need for school administration grew 500 percent. The need for additional principals grew 79 percent while the number of classroom teachers only grew 57 percent.

One can easily conclude that Oklahoma’s public school models and the costs of administration  for our 681,848 students attending 517 schools tend to be much preferable to the Texas plan and we don’t even have to cross state lines to find our efficiencies. Oklahoma’s rural schools (the ones targeted by the false narrative that our state has too many school districts) educate students much more economically, in some cases 35 to 40 % less in per pupil expenditures than metropolitan large school districts.

Finally, Oklahoma’s public schools graduate 85% of its students, nearly 5% greater than the national average, while education spending remains at 48th among all states and the District of Columbia.

Educating children is expensive. In fact, about the only thing more expensive than educating children is not educating them. This is not a new concept. Mark Twain famously said, “Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.”

If Oklahoma wants to improve the efficiencies and performance of its schools, then it needs to elect legislators who are willing to fund them at levels that will return qualified teachers to the classroom and provide textbooks that are not obsolete and ragged.

Thanks you for allowing me to serve. If you have comments or questions, please call 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Boom Goes The Budget

Boom Goes The Budget - November 19, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Formally called an “Extraordinary Session” and commonly referred to as a “Special Session,” seven weeks of unrehearsed antics at the state capitol made it apparent that the resulting pandemonium was neither special nor extraordinary.

If the fact that underpaid teachers are leaving the state and exiting the education field after a decade of economic abuse does not jolt legislators into political reality, neither will the tragic fact that developmentally disabled citizens who apply for services are placed on a list that exceeds 7500 individuals and is 11 years long.

If the fact that hospitals and ambulance services are closing across the state at an alarming rate does not cause concern or inquiry from the majority of Oklahoma’s legislators or the Governor, neither will the closure of nursing homes or the loss of home health care for citizens who will have no place to go when in home care through the Advantage Waiver program is eliminated.

Teachers rally at the capitol and are rebuffed. Developmentally disabled rally at the capitol and are disregarded. County Commissioners come to the capitol to explain the statewide harm resulting from state budget cuts and they get more of the same.

The only time that visiting the capitol appears to be effective is when chartered tour buses show up at the south doors loaded with white collar employees of the oil and gas industry who have been whisked down the elevators of downtown Oklahoma City office towers and shuttled to remind legislators that a No Vote is important….to the profit and loss statement of shareholders.

On those days, legislative galleries are filled to the brim with men and women intended to frighten back into compliance “wayward” legislators whose constituents may have influenced them of the need for an increase in the Gross Production Tax.

The tactic was once again successful as all attempts to provide the state of Oklahoma with a stream of recurring revenue by reversing the Gross Production Tax cuts and the High Earner Income Tax Cuts that have been enacted over the past 5 years failed.

Instead, those legislative leaders who had orchestrated a vote designed “appear” sympathetic to Oklahoma’s plight but in reality pushed members to no option except a Bill to use “Cuts and Cash” that protected the oil and gas industry and high income campaign contributors but also kicked the can down the proverbial road in a manner that would not only negate the possibility of raises for teachers or state employees but also insure that next year’s state budget hole would approach $750 Million.

The Bill that was passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday of Week Eight could have been passed in Week One, but that would not been good theatre. The House adjourned on Friday morning before the Senate could adopt a better option had they wanted to and consequently when the Senate followed suit Friday afternoon, the Governor had two choices.

For the first time in a long time, the Governor chose the path of strong leadership and vetoed those portions of the Bill that guaranteed future budget shortfalls and fiscal woes for the state. Thankfully, Governor Fallin’s action left in place temporary funding for programs like Advantage Waiver and the Developmentally Disabled and allowed those who are least able to care for themselves to have at least a few weeks of respite from anguish and despair.

However, Governor Fallin’s veto was based on her refusal to accept draconian cuts in other programs and consequently increased the likelihood of another Special Session in late November or early December to address the unaddressed scope of her original call for action. Let’s hope that it is truly Extraordinary.

Thanks you for allowing me to serve. If you have comments or questions, please call 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Oh So Close, Or Was It?

Oh So Close, Or Was It? - November 12, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Week Seven of Oklahoma’s 2017 Special Session came to a close this week after a vote on Wednesday produced absolute frustration in everyone who was searching for a solution. Any legislator who still thinks that our state is not in crisis has his or her “Honorable” head in the ground.

The vote, HB 1054 failed by a vote of 71-27-1. The Bill contained what had been referred to as the single last hope to fund DHS, Advantage Waiver, Mental Health and Medicaid programs funded through the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. It also included a $3000 raise for teachers and $1000 for state employees.

Due to a Constitutional Amendment that was passed by the people of Oklahoma in 1992, all revenue raising measures need 75% of the legislature to vote in favor of the Bill. When the dust had settled, 82% of the Democrats and only 67% of the Republicans had voted for the Bill. Because the House is comprised of 71 Republicans and only 28 Democrats, the final tally yielded the yielded an overall percentage of 70.2%.

Nearly everyone agreed that the Bill was not a good solution. Many Republicans did not want to vote for the Bill because they had signed pledges to never raise taxes and many Democrats did not want to vote for the Bill because most of the tax increases were on things that unequally affect poor and working class Oklahomans such as fuel and cigarettes and low point beer and the $2.6 Million that would be raised this year from the oil and gas industry nor the $13 Million that would be generated by that industry next year did not seem to be a fair trade-off.

The vote on the bill came the day after a large number of developmentally disabled Oklahomans and their caregivers had come to the capitol to meet with lawmakers and to explain the urgent need that their programs and agencies were facing.

Unfortunately on the day that the Bill was being voted on, buses full of oil company employees parked in front of the capitol and those employees filled the gallery to “watch” the vote. Of course, it didn’t hurt the oil and gas industry’s game plan that a rumor began circulating week before last that one Oklahoma oil company executive had contributed $500,000 to a “dark money” Political Action Committee to support legislators willing to keep the Gross Production Tax low. In the days that followed, news spread of an enhancement of an additional $500,000 by another executive for a total of $1,000,000 to influence future elections in favor of oil and gas.

In the days after the vote, conventional wisdom at the capitol was that the vote may not have been as close as the numbers showed and that it may have been more than a coincidence that the vote failed. Questions arose as to why 7 Republican legislators who had voted for the same exact tax increases on cigarettes, gasoline and beer a few days earlier, voted NO when the Gross Production Tax was added in.

Others questioned the peculiarity of last minute vote changes (some from red to green and some from green to red) immediately after an impromptu Republican caucus meeting that occurred while the vote was open.

Perhaps the greatest mystery was the “inability” of the Speaker to deliver just the five votes needed to pass HB1054. Of the 22 Republicans who voted NO, one was Majority Whip and four were Chairmen of Health and Human Services and Education Committees overseeing governmental agencies that would have been greatly aided by the increased revenue. In fact, those five and 17 more held chairmanships and vice-chairmanships at the pleasure of the Speaker. As shown earlier, the Speaker has the power to remove any member who does not tow the party line and will not hesitate to use that power. No wonder the question around the capitol is, “Was the vote really as close as it seemed or was it calculated to simply appear that way and still pacify the demands of the powerful oil and gas industry donors?”

Call or write with your comments to 405-557-7401 or david.perryman@okhouse.gov.

 

Too Little Too Late?

Too Little Too Late? - November 5, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

One of Aesop’s Fables reminds us of the Grasshopper that spent its summer in the meadow hopping about chirping and singing to its heart’s content. One day, the Grasshopper noticed an Ant passing by bearing along with great toil an ear of corn that he was taking to his nest.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?” “I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.”

As the Ant went on its way, the Grasshopper called out, “Why bother about winter? There is plenty of food here in the meadow.” Soon the snows came and while the Ants were distributing corn and grain to each other from the stores that they had collected in the summer, the Grasshopper frantically searched everywhere but was able to find only a tiny morsel or two. Not long afterward, as the Grasshopper lay starving, he realized that he would not live through the winter because his efforts at survival were too little, too late.

Too little, too late also characterizes the dire straits that the Oklahoma legislature has imposed on the citizens of Oklahoma. Actions like cutting the oil and gas production tax rate without considering the effects on the ability of Oklahoma to deliver essential services was reckless and irresponsible. The failure to remedy the situation by reversing those cuts is equally reprehensible.

Oil companies and the legislators who are controlled by oil companies have jeopardized Oklahoma’s budget for the past several years and continue to put government services and the people who are served at risk.

One such program that has served Oklahoma well is the Oklahoma Advantage Waiver. It is a program that allows 21,147 fragile Oklahomans who are nursing home qualified and/or developmentally disabled to live in their homes as opposed to being placed in a nursing home or other form of institutionalized care. The average cost of services to an Advantage Waiver patient is approximately $20 per day instead of the $160 per day that a nursing home costs. Oklahoma designed the Advantage Waiver and as a result has saved the state literally millions of dollars.

Much like the grasshopper who refused to acknowledge the coming of winter, legislative leaders last May intentionally, but discreetly, violated the state constitution by appropriating a ten month budget to DHS and calling it a twelve month budget. The intent of those leaders was to revisit the DHS budget during the 2018 legislative session when they would hopefully have additional revenues to make a supplemental appropriation for the final two months of the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

            The deceit resulted in $29.1 Million in DHS Reductions during the current (2017-2018) fiscal year, $9.2 Million of which was a direct reduction to the Advantage Waiver Program. Adopting budgets that don’t really balance and moving tax payment deadlines forward are some of the tricks that legislative leaders have used to keep from addressing the elephant in the room, that is, When is the legislature going to be honest and create a tax policy that provides recurring revenue for this and future fiscal years?

Destroying the Advantage Waiver is detrimental to patients and their families who often are able to work only because their loved one has in-home care. Because of a likely increase in the number of falls and a decrease in medication provided by Advantage Waiver, elimination of the program places additional untenable burdens on rural hospitals and mental health facilities that are already losing millions of dollars per year through uncompensated care.

With in-home care being eliminated, there most assuredly will be an increase in adult protective services referrals and fewer APS workers will have even fewer providers to refer patients to. In-home providers will be forced to lay off workers who will no longer be taxpayers, thus further damaging Oklahoma’s economy.

Legislative leaders who have caused those cuts, don’t like the heat that they are receiving from their constituents so they posture and complain that they are being “terrorized” by state agencies that have been forced to cut programs such as Advantage Waiver.

 Oklahoma, it is time to turn up the heat. Tell your legislator to increase gross production tax to at least the average in the region. Hopefully, it will not be too little, too late. If you have comments or questions, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or david.perryman@okhouse.gov.

 

Let's Really Fix This

Let’s Really Fix This - October 29, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Oklahoma schools, mental health agencies, hospitals and health care agencies are in financial crisis. That crisis translates to impending catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans of all ages. Oklahoma’s state government has a revenue problem that has deepened to the point that services can no longer be provided.

This situation did not occur overnight. For the past ten years taxes have been recklessly cut without considering the cost or the impact on services that citizens expect government to deliver. Income taxes on high income earners have been slashed to the end that hundreds of millions of dollars have been taken out of state revenues.

Gross Production Tax on the oil and gas that is extracted from Oklahoma has been reduced from 7% which is actually low compared to other states to 2% which has the effect of subsidizing companies who are drilling in other states where the GPT is actually two and a half to six times higher.

If the Oklahoma legislature had the courage to stand up to the oil and gas industry and its lobbyists, we would have an opportunity to avoid being 48th, 49th or 50th in every category that impacts our quality of life.

I am not talking about punishing an industry that is so vital to Oklahoma. I am talking about simply reminding it that its Oklahoma operations are destroying our roads and contributing to earthquakes that damage our property and there is simply no reason for its tax structure to be so low. The legislature simply needs to tell the oil and gas industry to pay its fair share of taxes.

The legislature clearly does not have the intestinal fortitude to confront the oil and gas industry. Today marks the end of the 5th week of Special Session. If you would like to understand the situation, I would ask that you read the 7 points below:

First, the Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance recently had a poll conducted that showed that 67 percent of Oklahomans favored an increase in the Gross Production Tax (GPT) to 7 percent.

Second, the current Oklahoma GPT rate is 2 percent for the first three years (“tax holiday”) of each well’s production and then it increases to 7 percent in the 37th month of the life of the well.

Third, Oklahoma’s GPT Tax Rate is not only the lowest in the country, if it were raised to 4%, it would STILL be the lowest in the country.

Fourth, the length of the “tax holiday” is every bit as important as the percentage rate. For instance, horizontal wells in Oklahoma are more than half depleted after just 36 months of production. So, when Democrats said months ago that they would accept 4% at 12 months; 4.5% at 18 months or 5% at 36 months, the length of the “tax holidays” were not just numbers that were casually tossed around.

• A 12 month tax holiday means that 37% of the lifetime oil production of the well is depleted before the 7% rate kicks in.

• A 24 month tax holiday means that 53% of the lifetime oil production of the well is depleted before the 7% rate starts.

• A 36 month tax holiday means that 62% of the wells total oil production is depleted before 7% applies.

Fifth, even though the Democrats have been requesting an increase in Gross Production Tax for months, it has only last week that the Republicans announced a budget deal WITH EACH OTHER… and that budget deal didn’t include the Gross Production Tax….or Democrats.

Sixth, last Friday, for the first time, Republicans claimed to offer a deal that included Gross Production Tax. The purported offer was: THE LOWEST GROSS PRODUCTION TAX RATE IN THE COUNTRY and a plan that would allow 62% OF EACH NEW WELL’S LIFETIME PRODUCTION OF OIL TO BE DEPLETED BEFORE the tax went to 7%. The “deal” ended up deadlocked and dying in committee with a tie vote that the Republican Chairman and Co-Chairman refused to break.

Seventh, I truly believe that most legislators (Republican and Democratic) want to fix this, but those who are beholden to their campaign contributors are having a tough time right now. They need courage. If you really want this fixed, pick up the phone or sit down and write a note to your legislator, Democratic or Republican, and encourage them to REALLY FIX this by increasing the Gross Production Tax and decreasing the length of the Tax Holiday.

If you have comments or questions, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or david.perryman@okhouse.gov.

Serving Two Masters

Serving Two Masters - October 22, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

This week’s article is not a study on Chapter 6, Verse 24 of the Gospel of Matthew. It isn’t even an analysis of Aesop’s Fable of the Battle between the Beasts and Birds. It is however an illustration that is based simply on the type of common sense that is sorely missing at the State Capitol.

The Oklahoma legislature has just concluded week four of the 2017 Special Session. Having been tasked by the Governor to fix the budget shortfall caused by the illegal cigarette tax fee, find a long-term solution to repeated budget shortfalls and a way to fund teacher salaries, lawmakers continue to come up short.

A midweek proposal consisted of 1) a $1.50 cigarette tax increase; 2) a 6 cent per gallon, at the pump, increase in gasoline and diesel fuel; and 3) a miniscule income tax increase on high income earners. The proposal left no new money for roads and bridges and leaves Oklahoma with a $400 Million budget hole to begin the next year. However, the most frustrating aspect of the plan is that it eliminates the possibility of an increase in the Gross Production Tax.

The fact that the legislature continues, at all costs, to block an increase in GPT underscores the most egregious aspect of Oklahoma politics over the past 10 years. Oklahoma has too many legislators who have forgotten that their master should be the people of the state of Oklahoma. Serving two masters has never worked in any situation.

Imagine one day you have just met with your attorney and as you are leaving his office, the opposing party enters for an appointment with your lawyer. Suddenly, you realize that the same lawyer intends to represent you both. Doesn’t work, does it?

It Doesn’t work in state government either. Legislators who are more concerned about winning their next election tend to bend to the will of lobbyists and thereby place what is right for Oklahoma constituents on the back burner.

Any elected official who has been purchased lock, stock and barrel by the oil and gas industry to the extent that they will not even consider or negotiate an increase in the Gross Production Tax has chosen his master to the detriment of the best interest of the people of his District.

Likewise, any elected official who has signed a pledge to NEVER, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES vote for a tax increase has opted to either ignore the needs of the people of Oklahoma or become a liar. The group that promotes that pledge avow that government should be so small and ineffective that it can be drowned in a bathtub. Unfortunately, because Oklahomans bought into that rhetoric, those who signed the pledge have succeeded and they are drowning our children, our elderly and those who have mental illnesses in that same bathtub.

The two master syndrome also occurs when a lobbyist representing an industry or organization allows his or her personal political beliefs to take precedence over the well-being of the industry or the members of the organization. A recent example occurred when an organization made up of rural Oklahomans had retained a lobbyist and instead of supporting policies that would enhance Oklahoma, the lobbyist supported partisan candidates and partisan policies that actually undermined rural schools, fire protection, health care and other programs that were essential to life in the rural parts of Oklahoma.

Likewise, associations purporting to represent the best interest of member organizations can undermine the stability of the member organizations themselves. This past week, an association that had nothing to do with the oil and gas industry ran to the aid of the oil and gas industry with TV and Social Media blitzes calculated to pressure legislators into passing a cigarette tax and thereby foregoing a Gross Production Tax increase that is the only path toward funding core services like mental health, roads and teacher salaries.

The association claimed that the cigarette tax would bring health benefits to our state. However, if the association were honestly pursuing the better health for Oklahomans, it should have used its influence to pressure the Governor and those legislators who continue to block the $3.6 Billion in federal funds over 7 years that would have had a real impact on the long term health of Oklahomans and the financial stability of Oklahoma’s rural hospitals whose current red ink puts them at risk of shutting down

Legislators need to be reminded that the Master they were elected to serve is the best interest of the PEOPLE of Oklahoma, not corporate campaign contributors or the lobbyists who shuttle money.

Thanks you for allowing me to serve. If you have comments or questions, please call 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Special Session Update - Week Three

Special Session Update – Week Three - October 15, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

The 3rd full week of Oklahoma’s 2017 Special Legislative Session has come and gone. The week began with hopeful signs of a bipartisan agreement as members met without convening in committees or on the floor so that these budget meetings are not costing the state any additional money.

On Sunday evening, October 8, four Republican House members, including Speaker McCall, his Majority Floor Leader and two others met with three Democratic legislators to forge a plan that might be acceptable to members from both parties in hopes that at least 76 members of the House of Representatives would support it.

What Speaker McCall and his leadership team proposed was a two part package that took some of the Governor’s Plan (Cigarette Tax) and three items from the Democrat’s Plan (Restore Gross Production Tax, Income Tax on High Wage Earners and Restore the Earned Income Tax Credit for Low Wage Earners) and added in some components to attempt to appease the Republican Caucus (Increase Fuel Tax by 6 cents per gallon and Eliminate the Wind Energy Sales Tax Exemption).

The first quid pro quo was basically that Republicans would vote to increase the higher earner income tax and restore the EITC if Democrats would vote to increase the Cigarette Tax. The second tradeoff was for the Republicans to vote to increase the Gross Production Tax on new wells if the Democrats would vote to allow sales tax to be imposed on Wind Energy and increase the Gasoline and Diesel Tax at the pump by 6 cents per gallon.

The plans when taken together would generate approximately $474 Million; enough to prevent additional cuts to state healthcare agencies and to allow teachers to be given a $1000 raise this year and another $1000 raise next year.

With all 28 members of the Democratic caucus on board, the Republican leaders undertook to secure assurances of support from at least 48 of the 72 members of the Republican caucus. Of course GOP caucus votes are held in secret and there is no “official” record, word began to slip out late Monday that Speaker McCall and Floor Leader Echols were having difficulty in getting sufficient members to support the plan.

According to online web blog NonDoc, a Freshman Republican had sent an email to her constituents that said that the Republican caucus had “discussed and voted on 27 different budget scenarios and none garnered more than 39 votes and some were as low as 8 votes.” Later reports indicated that 7 of the 27 budget scenarios did receive more than 39 votes, but that the highest vote tally was only 47 and that another Republican member, speaking on condition of anonymity, had claimed that the GOP caucus vote to increase the Gross Production Tax from 2 to 5 percent received approval from only about 38 of the 72 Republican members.

With Week Four of the Special Session beginning today, the capital will be closed for extensive electrical restoration; however, members will continue to meet informally in an attempt to find a recurring, sustainable revenue package to solve Oklahoma’s dire situation.

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma in the House of Representatives. I will continue to keep you informed of any developments. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Special Session Update - Week Two

Special Session Update – Week Two - October 8, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

The Oklahoma Legislative Special Session just concluded its second week. While negotiations continued, there were no committee meetings to consider Bills and no Floor Session. For a few hours in the middle of the week, it did appear that there was a glimmer of hope for a budget deal. The Governor’s office communicated tentative approval of an agreement between her office and Senate Republicans and House and Senate Democrats.

The substance of the deal was that some of the Gross Production Tax cuts and state income tax cuts that have been made over the past 8 to 10 years would be reversed. GPT would be restored to 5% on new oil and gas wells and high income earners would see two new income tax brackets created: one for earners of more than $250K/$500K and one for earners of more than $500K/$1M.

The two new brackets would affect just 26,071 taxpayers (1.48% of all Oklahoma taxpayers) and would cause the income tax bill of those who earn between $200,000 and $499,999 to go increase by an average of $6 per year while those who earn between $500,000 and $1,000,000 would see an average increase of $189 per year. Those who earn more than $1,000,000 would pay an average increase of $1,843 per year.

While all parties agreed that those changes would affect higher income taxpayers, it seemed to be the fair thing to do since it would partially reverse some of the tax cuts that have been more beneficial to wealthier taxpayers over the past decade.  Legislators who were hesitant to reverse the GPT and income tax cuts were promised an increase in cigarette taxes and a reduction of the cigarette discount and a six cent per gallon fuel tax increase as well as a removal of the sales tax exemption on things like long term car rental, air craft rental, fur storage and landscaping and yard care services. The terms of the deal as summarized in a power point produced by the Governor’s office also eliminated the sales tax exemption on wind turbine parts purchased for use in their construction.

The plan was structured to provide teachers with a $2,000 per year salary increase and to substantially fill what was expected to be a $400M to $500M budget hole next spring. It was a classic “nobody likes everything but everybody likes something” compromise.

Unfortunately, the glimmer of hope was abruptly extinguished on Thursday afternoon when the power of lobbyists and legislative liaisons of three groups became too strong for conservative legislators. Those groups were 1) the oil and gas industry; 2) Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform who are holding “no tax increase” pledges signed by 23 legislators and Governor Fallin; and 3) the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs who believe with all their being that Oklahoma does not have a revenue problem.

Negotiations are ongoing and I will continue to keep you informed as we try to meet the needs of the State of Oklahoma and its people.

Two pending bills that have not yet been heard in committee are bothersome. HB1065 by Echols (R-Oklahoma City) and SB9 by Bice (R-Edmond) are both aimed at rural school annexation and administrative consolidation. Both of these legislators are from urban areas and continue to labor under the mistaken assumption that smaller schools need to be consolidated.

They are not in tune with the reality that rural schools have long been consolidated and are the model of economic efficiency and the shining success story in Oklahoma’s public education system. The truth is that rural administrators rarely function solely as administrators because of their classroom and/or support personnel duties. According to the Oklahoma Education Coalition, a consortium of nearly a dozen education organizations, the administrator to student ratio for Oklahoma is the lowest in the seven state region and only eight states in the country have a lower administrator to student ratio. This is important information that can dissuade fair minded legislators.

A few years ago, I could count on Republican legislators to assist me in preserving local control and pushing back against school consolidation and rural charter schools, however, legislation like these Bills and the passage of SB782 in 2015 raise questions about whether rural Oklahoma legislators are more interested in campaign contributions from charter and private school proponents than they are in serving constituents and the communities in their districts.

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma in the House of Representatives. I will continue to keep you informed of any developments. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Special Session Update - Week One

Special Session Update – Week One - October 1, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

The Oklahoma legislature is in Special Session and I feel that it is important to discuss some of the pending issues. Although there is not currently a budget agreement, the three days that lawmakers spent at the Capitol was not wasted. Those days were used to meet technical requirements of the Oklahoma Constitution in anticipation of a budget agreement.

While I believe that the Special Session should not have been called until an agreement was reached, the recess does prevent additional costs from accruing. I have informed House Staff at the Capitol that I do not intend to seek nor accept any additional fees or reimbursement that may arise because of the Special Session.

Lawmakers are faced with trying to fill a nearly $500 Million budget hole that will primarily affect services relating to the physical and mental health of thousands of Oklahomans. Oklahoma citizens deserve better than they are receiving from their legislature and while negotiations are ongoing, it appears that the Governor, the Senate Republicans and Democrats in both houses are close to a deal.

The latest draft of the proposed plan included the definition of the term Compromise: “An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions.” Hopefully the parties will soon understand that Oklahoma needs a compromise to resolve this impasse.

In the meantime, two committees have been busy meeting. On Tuesday, the Appropriations and Budget Committee heard Speaker McCall’s HB1099 regarding raising the Oklahoma cigarette tax by $1.50 to $2.53 per pack. The Bill passed the committee on a 19-9 on a bi-partisan vote. That Bill is now eligible to be heard on the House Floor and will need 76 votes to pass the House and while there are 72 Republicans in the House, there have been published reports that about 22 to 24 GOP members will not vote for the tax. If 24 Republicans do not vote for the cigarette tax, it would take all 28 Democrats to make it pass. Currently, there are around 14 to 16 Democrats who have indicated that they would not be willing to vote for the tax unless the Speaker allows the Oil and Gas Gross Production Tax rate to be voted on too.

On Thursday, the Rules Committee heard two bills. One, HB1093, by Rep. Terry O’Donnell, (R-Catoosa) is promoted by a Florida “think tank” and government contractor. It establishes a program that would allow the contractor to cancel Medicaid on citizens who could not produce written documentation of eligibility within ten days. Proponents say it would eliminate Medicaid fraud but opponents say that there is no evidence that there is enough Medicaid fraud in Oklahoma to justify the millions of dollars in cost.

According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, Oklahoma’s Medicaid error rate, which includes honest mistakes as well as fraud, is 0.3 percent – far below the national average of 5.9 percent and the lowest of 17 states studied. Also, a number of states that have enacted this legislation are or have been engaged in litigation with the private contractor which also paid a justice department fine of more than $63 Million to settle allegations that it had defrauded the federal government. Nonetheless, the Bill passed out of the Rules Committee on a 6-3 vote with Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh; Elise Hall, R-OKC; Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa; Zack Taylor, R-Seminole; Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa and Kevin West, R-Moore voting yes and Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa; Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs; and David Perryman, D-Chickasha voting no. 

The Rules Committee also heard Republican Floor Leader Jon Echol’s HB 1074, (Co-Authored by Rep. Bobby Cleveland, R-Lexington). The Bill was filed to exempt commercial tractor-trailers and oil and gas industry frac tanks from paying the sales tax imposed on all vehicle purchases last session. Proponents say that making the trucking and oil and gas industry pay sales tax on vehicle purchases was a mistake. During the meeting, Rep. Steve Kouplen (D-Beggs) requested that farm vehicles be exempted from the sales tax also however, the co-authors would not allow the amendment and the Bill passed out of committee by a 6-3 vote with Josh Cockroft, R-Tecumseh; Elise Hall, R-OKC; Terry O’Donnell, R-Catoosa; Zack Taylor, R-Seminole; Weldon Watson, R-Tulsa and Kevin West, R-Moore voting yes and Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa; Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs; and David Perryman, D-Chickasha voting no.

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma in the House of Representatives. I will continue to keep you informed of any developments. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Keeping Up With The Texans

Keeping Up With The Texans - September 24, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

News of this week’s Special Legislative Session has bumped up the number of calls and emails that I receive from constituents regarding their thoughts on Oklahoma’s impending revenue failure. As always, I encourage that input as it is important to me for my understanding and it is important for me to have real life examples to use as I attempt to persuade politicians whose lives exist in the bubble of the State Capitol and don’t understand how votes on bills can detrimentally impact hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans, young and old.

While the official reason that a Special Session has been called is to “replace the $215 Million” hole that will result from the cigarette fee being held unconstitutional, the real impact is nearly half a Billion Dollars when the loss of federal matching dollars is considered. However, even that $500 Million hole does not address the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been diverted from roads, bridges, mental health, education or a number of other core services that have been crippled by unwise legislative decisions over the past 10 years.

As we look at revenue options, there are two groups who continually push back. There is the group that claims that the state’s budget could be balanced by diverting $102.7 Million in county road funds, eliminating all funding to OETA, pulling $23 Million from the Rainy Day Fund, using $83 Million in “anticipated surplus cash.” The other group simply wants to pass the cigarette tax.

Neither group wants to address the ongoing cuts that undermine Oklahoma’s educational system, our mental health care, roads and bridges and the myriad of other state services that have been eliminated or reduced to a level of impotence.

Both groups however tout the wisdom of the tax policy of the state of Texas and covet the services that the Lone Star State provides to its citizens. Repeatedly, they point out that Texas has no income tax and erroneously state that it does not impose a sales tax.

The phenomenon of unwise fiscal decisions based on covetousness has many names. 19th Century economist Thorstein Veblin called it “Conspicuous Consumption.” An early 20th Century comic strip called it “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

In Oklahoma it would be correct to call it “Keeping up with the Texans” and it is alive and well at the Capitol as those who hold a supermajority in both houses of the Oklahoma legislature have been on a decade long pursuit to eliminate Oklahoma’s income taxes while pandering to the dictates of the oil and gas industry in the slashing of Oklahoma’s oil and gas production tax.

What they don’t acknowledge is that the “nice things” in Texas cost money and that the tax burden on Texans is higher than the tax burden on Oklahomans. In fact, Oklahoma’s Tax Freedom Day is a full six days earlier than our Texas cousins’. Only seven states tax its citizens less than Oklahoma (4 of those 7 are in the Deep South and have schools are only marginally better funded than Oklahoma’s).

It is no surprise that a state can have better roads and bridges and pay their teachers 20 to 30% higher wages when its tax structure produces revenues to fund those services. For instance, according to the State Business Tax Climate Index of the non-profit Tax Foundation, the Corporate Tax in Texas was 2nd HIGHEST in the country while Oklahoma’s was 9th LOWEST. Oklahoma ranked lowest in the nation in the Unemployment Insurance Tax while Texas was 11 spaces behind.

According to the Tax Foundation Texas’ Property Tax was 13th highest in the nation while Oklahoma’s was 12th LOWEST. That often equates to an annual tax bill that is two to three times higher than an equivalent property in Oklahoma and clarifies why more than 40% of Texas’ local and state taxes are derived from Property Tax while Oklahoma’s Property Tax structure results in only 17.5% of its total local and state revenues.

It is interesting to note that while Texas does not tax groceries, the state sales tax rate is 6.25% and applies to hundreds of goods and services that are not taxed in Oklahoma at Oklahoma’s state rate of 4.5%. The result is that in Texas approximately 36% of all state and local collections come from Sales Taxes while Oklahoma receives 33.3% of its state and local collections from that source.

Another area that Oklahoma has the LOWEST tax rate of any energy producing state in the country is the Gross Production Tax on Oil and Gas. In 2014, GPT made up the following percentages of total revenue in these states: Alaska – 72%; North Dakota – 54%; Wyoming – 39%; West Virginia – 13%; Texas – 11%; and Oklahoma – 8%. GPT would be a good place to start if Oklahoma really wants to “keep up with its neighbors.”

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Your Urgent Attention to the Matter Would be Appreciated

Your Urgent Attention to the Matter Would be Appreciated - September 17, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

In the early 1960’s my parents used Dad’s VA eligibility to buy 80 acres and an old house. His job teaching agriculture kept him running and the absence of a local veterinarian made him the area “cow-doctor” as he and Mom worked to keep their growing family clothed and fed.

He bought a few cattle and gradually built a herd by keeping the heifers and sending the steers to market. When spring and summer grass was gone, we fed hay and supplemented their protein with 20% range cubes. Every time Dad opened a sack of cubes, he would remind us that “those cubes are a nickel apiece; they go in the trough and not on the ground.” Maybe a little hyperbole, but we understood.

When my siblings and I were old enough to really help with the cattle, Mom and Dad bought the Southard place which allowed for more head. One of his earlier cows had given birth to a black-baldy heifer that we immediately named “Stranger.” Stranger was a family pet and had turned into a pretty good mama cow herself. The only draw-back was that she had grown horns.

It had always been Dad’s intent to de-horn Stranger but it was not a priority. That is, until the cold winter day that just as he opened a sack of cubes and swung the sack up under his arm to pour it into the trough, Stranger walked up behind him and caught the feed sack with her horn and spilled the entire 50 pounds of cubes on the ground. Immediately priorities changed. As soon as we picked up the spilled feed, we moved Stranger to the head gate in the cattle pen and without further ado, her horns were no more. Priorities are funny things like that.

Whether we are talking about public education or economic development or rural health care or roads and bridges, Oklahoma has a litany of long neglected situations, each of which are detrimental to Oklahoma and its citizens, young and old.

It seems like state leaders are more interested in circling the wagons, cutting taxes and eliminating services than they are in planning for the future. Establishing priorities is the key to accomplishing goals and both require an investment in the future.

While much focus has been on oil and gas tax breaks and incentives and the fact that Oklahoma’s Gross Production Tax Rate on oil and gas production is less than 1/3 of the rate in most other energy producing states, less conversation surrounds the damage caused by the irresponsible income tax cuts over the past dozen years.

In what can only be described as a “rich get richer and poor get poorer” scenario, lowering the state’s income tax rate from 6.65% to 5% has decreased the state’s annual revenue by $1.022 billion while disproportionally benefiting those at the top of the income ladder. According to numbers released in January 2016 by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, the wealthiest 20% of Oklahoma households – those making on average $246,000/year – have enjoyed 72% of the benefit and the top 5 percent of households – those making on average $568,000/year – receive 43% of the benefit.

Meanwhile, those with household income of $62,200 and less – 60% of households – have received just 10% of the income tax reductions. Altogether, the wealthiest 1% of households in Oklahoma received nearly the same share of tax cuts as the bottom 80 percent.

According to those Oklahoma Policy Institute reports, the median Oklahoma household with annual income of $49,800 has seen its taxes reduced by $228, compared to a $15,519 cut for the average household in the top 1 percent (income of $476,600 and above).

Households making less than $21,700 – the bottom 20% of households – have received an average of just $4 per year from the income tax cuts. As a result, Oklahoma Policy Institute reports that the income tax cuts have left the poorest 20 percent of Oklahoma households paying 10.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes and the middle 60 percent paying 9.3% of their income, compared to just 4.3 percent paid by the wealthiest 1 percent.

Between income and gross production tax cuts it is no wonder that Oklahoma cannot afford 5 day per week schools and we are among the most unhealthy people in the country. Just a phone call or email will communicate to a legislator that, “Your urgent attention to the matter would be appreciated.”

Thank you for allowing me to serve Oklahoma. For questions or comments call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Crooked Rivers

Crooked Rivers - September 10, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Maps are my passion. In another life, cartography would have been my chosen career. Getting from point A to point B is always exciting and apps like Mapquest or GoogleMaps move plotting trips to a whole new level. Most of us have at one time or another dreamed of putting a canoe in a stream and allowing the current to take them toward the Gulf of Mexico.

Winding rivers tend to provide a romantic allure. Crooked rivers on the other hand impart a whole other meaning. If not for maps that show how the river continuously winds back on itself turning one mile in three, four, five or ten or more, many of us would probably have set off on such an adventure.

Just like water flowing across the surface of our state, takes the path of least resistance coursing its way through an often inefficient journey, we often tend to choose the path of least resistance in our lives. Governor Fallin has issued a press release indicating that she will likely call a special legislative session to address a revenue failure that has occurred because one party refused to negotiate with the other party regarding revenues that are needed to provide core services.

This week the editorial page of the Daily Oklahoman opined that a special session was necessary because the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that the $1.50 per pack cigarette fee passed by Republicans in the legislature because they “failed to muster” support from Democrats was really a tax and was not legal. The Daily Oklahoman was wrong.

The cigarette tax (HB2372) needed 76 votes to be valid. At the time the Bill was voted on, there were 72 Republicans in the House of Representatives and 26 Democrats. In other words, the Republicans needed just 4 Democratic votes to pass a valid cigarette tax. When the dust settled the vote was 63-34 with 12 Democrats voting for the cigarette tax.

While it was true that 14 Democrats voted against the cigarette tax, 20 Republicans did likewise and one Republican failed to vote. While it is not truthful to say that the cigarette tax failed because of Democrats, it has always been abundantly clear how to get 100% of the Democrat’s to approve the cigarette tax…increase the gross production tax (GPT) on oil and gas to pay for teachers’ raises and roads and bridges and rural hospitals.

Democrats could take the path of least resistance and vote yes on a cigarette tax without demanding that Oklahoma’s revenue problem be fixed but that would not be in the best interest of our schools and our public safety and our roads and bridges or our rural ambulances and hospitals.

However, the path of least resistance does not provide a solution to Oklahoma and Oklahomans.

According to a May 10, 2017 article in the Daily Oklahoman, “What you can't argue is that the state's own effective rate for gross production taxes has been cut in half in the past five years, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The state's effective gross production tax was 3.2 percent in FY 2016. It was 6.25 percent in FY 2012.”

The cost to the state of Oklahoma and its schools, roads, infrastructure and rural health care has been in the hundreds of millions per year and not only have oil and gas gross production tax revenues dipped by $300-400 Million per year, according to a May 2016 KFOR-TV news story, the scales have tipped. Quoting Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt, the KFOR article said, “We’re at a point now where we are losing more from tax breaks than what we’re bringing in from the gross production tax.”

Rolling over and passing a cigarette tax without demanding that reckless GPT and state income tax cuts be addressed would make one complicit in a long term plan to shift the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle class and working poor (those Oklahomans who do not have paid lobbyists).

GPT and state income tax cuts over the past ten years have taken more than a Billion Dollars a year out of the state’s revenue. Henry David Thoreau said, “The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.” Oklahoma’s solution will not come by taking the path of least resistance.

Thanks for allowing me to serve in the House of Representatives. Please call 405-557-7401 or write david.perryman@okhouse.gov with questions or comments.

Back to the Future

Back to the Future - September 3, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

With a plot that bounced between 1955 and the year 1985, Back to the Future’s twist on time travel captivated the minds and imagination of moviegoers thirty-two years ago. The quest of the lead characters, Marty McFly and Emmett “Doc” Brown was to restore the “fabric of the space time continuum” that they themselves had inadvertently disrupted.

That common theme resulted in two popular sequels that included scenes set in 1885 and a then “futuristic” 2015. Repeatedly, the pair called upon the time traveling DeLorean with its flux capacitor to preserve the progeny (and sometimes the ancestry) of the Brown or McFly genealogical lines.

The movies illustrate that the ability to tinker with the past impacts the present devastates the future. Nonetheless, we tinker, we manipulate and we suffer the unintended consequences. This week the Oklahoma Supreme Court issued a 5-4 Decision in a case involving the constitutionality of a statute that made a 1 ¼ cent sales tax applicable to automobile sales.

To understand how the Court’s Decision is similar to the pursuits of Marty and Doc, we simply need to review a bit of history. For Oklahoma’s first 85 years our Constitution has contained requirements that “bills for raising revenue” must originate in the House of Representatives and must not be passed during the last five days of session. During that era, people elected legislators to decide when to raise revenue or when to decrease revenue.

Unfortunately, by 1989, Oklahoma’s per pupil expenditures had dropped to 46th while teacher’s salaries had slid to 48th in the country. In response, 1990 saw what may be one of the proudest accomplishments in Oklahoma legislative history when Democrats and Republicans, during the administration of Republican Governor Henry Bellmon stepped up and enacted true reform for public education and education funding in the form of HB 1017. For a time, it appeared that Oklahomans and their elected officials truly cared about their state and the future of their children.

The success of HB 1017 launched a movement that ultimately assumed control of Oklahoma government and continues to guide public education down a path of destruction. In 1991, anti-public education groups, seeking to seeking to REDUCE teacher pay and REMOVE the cap on class size, had State Question 639 placed on the ballot to repeal HB 1017.

By the slim margin of 54.3 to 45.7 percent and despite the support of the editorial board of the state’s largest newspaper, Oklahoma voters preserved the reforms of HB 1017. However, those numbers emboldened education opponents who charted another path toward their goal.

Shortly thereafter, they had gathered enough signatures to place SQ 640 on the ballot to require that all revenue raising bills must either be passed by a vote of the people or the approval of 75% of both the House of Representative and the Senate and the signature of the Governor.

The passage of SQ 640 in 1992, signaled that the majority of Oklahomans were serious about restricting the ability of legislators to increase revenue. It is often said that the restriction is an insurmountable impediment, some see it as insurance that fiscal needs must be real and urgent before addressed. Others believed that it could foster bipartisan cooperation.

So did SQ 640 work to allow bipartisan solutions? The 2017 legislative session was the real test. Oklahomans demanded more revenue for the classroom and for teacher pay. Legislative leaders proposed a cigarette tax for health care and a vehicle sales tax for general revenue. Conventional wisdom was that the taxes needed 76 votes in the House to pass. While the majority party had 72 votes, only around 55 members of the majority party would vote for those revenue measures.

The 26 members of the minority party saw an opportunity to use SQ 640 as a tool to negotiate an increase in the Gross Production Tax to pay for things like teacher pay raises in return for their vote on a the tax increases proposed by the majority party.

The result was that the minority party was not allowed to negotiate. The majority party pushed through a cigarette tax and a vehicle sales tax. The Court has held one constitutional and the other unconstitutional.

We are back to the future, where we began. Gross Production Tax increases will not be considered unless the majority party allows it. The Court’s decision has made the minority party irrelevant and the future of our state depends on the majority party…and the voters of Oklahoma.

Call 405-557-7401 or write David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Connect the Dots

Connect The Dots - August 27, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Traveling roads adjacent to railyards generally treats drivers to amazing artwork, albeit graffiti, on the sides of boxcars and other rolling stock. I have always thought that talent to produce those pieces could surely be put to better use. The fact that others share that sentiment was borne out by the words that I saw last week on a railcar: “Stay in Art Class.”

According to an article earlier this summer in Governing magazine, Oklahoma educators are facing “death by a thousand spending cuts.” Superintendents who have shepherded their districts through natural disasters and other catastrophic events have discovered that a lack of money to educate Oklahoma’s children is equally challenging.

When it comes to education funding, there is not a single state that has suffered more than ours over the past decade. The Governing article could have examined the situation in any state but found Oklahoma’s in the greatest crisis. It is a shame but, Oklahoma spends $1 Billion less on K-12 education than it did a decade ago. Twenty percent of our school districts are only teaching four days per week. The base minimum salary for educators hasn’t been raised in nine years and emergency certifications to fill teacher vacancies have gone from 32 five years ago to more than 1400 this year.

Class sizes are growing as limitations on the student-teacher ratio have gone out the window. Many classes, including special education classes now exceed 30 to 33 students per teacher.

Likewise, class offerings are being eliminated. That includes such “superfluous” subjects as foreign languages, vocational agriculture, honors classes, advanced placement classes and art. Telling kids to stay in art class rings hollow when there is no art class to connect with the thousands of talented Oklahoma students whose future depends on that training. It doesn’t stop there.

Even funding this year for Oklahoma’s statewide science fair was cut. Oklahomans who are fighting for the future of our state are facing dogmatic rhetoric from those groups who say that Oklahoma has a spending problem and not a revenue problem. Their “facts” are based on generalities like, “Oklahoma has too many school districts” or “We need to spend less money on administrators and more in the classroom.”

The truth is, the number of Oklahoma school districts is not the problem and Oklahoma would see very little, if any savings from school consolidation. For example, Oklahoma already has the fewest number of administrators per student in our seven state region and that includes those states that are claimed to be more efficient because they have fewer school districts. Oklahoma’s efficiencies are based on the fact that most rural administrators do double and triple duty. For instance, in the legislative district that I represent, all but two K-12 schools that have an average daily attendance of less than 550 students are already consolidated and those two already share superintendents with other small schools.

As a result, the per student expenditure in those schools averages 60% of the per student expenditure in metro schools.  When you add in the low cost of K-8 schools (about 45% of the per student costs of metro schools) it becomes apparent that Governor Fallin was way off base last week when she renewed her call for K-8 school consolidation.

The efficiencies in Oklahoma schools are even more pronounced when consideration is given to the fact that the Oklahoma legislature has dropped the ball by cutting funding to among the lowest in the nation. When Oklahoma’s percentage of administrative costs in relation to total funding is the lowest in the region and the total funding is lowest in the country and the region, it only takes a mathematical calculation to realize that administrative costs are already extraordinarily low.

To illustrate, the Oklahoma Policy Institute, has determined that if Oklahoma were to cut its 3.2-percent rate of spending on district oversight to that of Hawaii’s, the lowest in the nation at 0.5 percent, it would have relatively little impact. Statewide, the savings would amount to $249 per student, or $165 million, a year. If all of the savings went to the classroom, Oklahoma would move up only one spot, to fourth from last, in classroom spending per student.

The key is to properly fund education. Since 2008, the percentage change in the inflation adjusted state funding formula is nation leading minus 26.9%. Of the eight states that have cut general funding by 10% or more, five, including Oklahoma and Kansas have enacted substantial income tax cuts. Reversing that damaging trend would greatly improve opportunities for our kids.

Until Oklahoma realizes the need to properly fund education, it may be that the most effective art class exercise would be a giant “Connect The Dots” worksheet.

Thanks for allowing me to serve in the Oklahoma legislature. If you have questions or comments, please call 405-557-7401 or write David.Perryman@OKHouse.gov.

We Needed The Eggs

We Needed The Eggs - August 20, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

There is the joke about the man who thought that he was a chicken. He acted like a chicken. He sounded like a chicken and sometimes he even tried to look like a chicken. It literally drove his wife crazy.

Finally one day she took him to a psychiatrist and begged for a cure. The doctor examined the husband, sat them both down and explained that this was the most serious case of identity psychosis that he had ever seen. When he asked the wife how long her husband had thought that he was a chicken, she broke down in tears and said, “Three years, and I would have brought him in sooner, but we needed the eggs.”

The dictionary defines expediency as “the quality of being convenient and practical despite possibly being improper or immoral. While this story illustrates an extreme example of personal expediency, political expediency runs rampant in America and Oklahoma is no exception.

One phrase that often denotes political expediency is “Politics makes strange bedfellows” and describes the phenomenon of two people or two groups of people who are diametrically opposed in terms of philosophies  but who may be brought together to reach a common goal, good or bad.

A Latin term that defines a related concept is “Hostis, Hostis, Noster.”  The English translation is, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Whatever the verbage, the concept is the same…political expediency routinely results in one faction overlooking distasteful or even repulsive characteristics of another faction to form a majority coalition.

While most Oklahomans are begging for their elected officials to work together, it is important that voters understand that, in times of deep division, political extremism runs counter to civility in government.

Both Oklahoma Democrats and Republicans have long been considered conservative when compared to other parts of the country however, the ability to define political philosophy using the term conservative or liberal no longer exists. Today, many Republicans who consider themselves conservatives are scorned by a purist wing of their own party who refer to them as Republicans In Name Only (RINOs).

While both parties have purist wings, extremism tends to disrupt the ability of a government to function in the best interest of its citizens. Governments tend to be more stable when the moderate elements of both parties exercise greater influence than their wings.

In fact, when a wing of either party becomes more influential than that party moderates, the instability that results is often similar to the current national scene. Thus, it becomes incumbent on the party moderates to either distance themselves from extremist elements or to concede control of the party to the extremists because the party can no longer exist without the wing.

Democrat or Republican, any party seeking to lead our state must strive for stability in government by working across the aisle and realize that partisan political expediency is the reason that Oklahoma is in the shape that it is. Until then, the egg on the face of state leaders does not come from some guy that thinks that he is a chicken.

Thanks for allowing me to serve in the Oklahoma legislature. If you have questions or comments, please call 405-557-7401 or write David.Perryman@OKHouse.gov.

Chinese Proverb Says....

Chinese Proverb Says… - August 13, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

In case you haven’t heard, the state’s budget is in a lurch. In what may be the most predictable decision of the century, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled last week that the leadership in the Oklahoma legislature violated the Oklahoma Constitution when they passed Senate Bill 845 to increase cigarette taxes.

It isn’t that Oklahoma doesn’t need the revenue. Over the past decade, state income tax rates for high income earners has been cut from 7 to 5% and the 7% gross production tax rate traditionally paid by oil and gas companies has been lowered to 1 and 2% during the periods when the wells are most productive.

As a result, decreased revenues cause most Oklahoma agencies to employ far fewer people than they did in 2006, even though the population has grown and the state struggles to provide services.

For instance, the Department of Public Safety has curtailed operations to the point that today, only a limited number of counties have driver examination testing centers and residents must drive up to an hour or more to stand in long pre-dawn lines at a first come, first served testing center.

The story is the same in other agencies. The number of full time DHS workers has decreased by approximately 8% over the past decade while caseloads have skyrocketed. Also, budget cuts have resulted in the closure of state parks and other recreational areas. Not only are citizens prevented from enjoying some of our most beautiful natural resources, small businesses all across the state that once benefitted from our once thriving tourism industry have been negatively impacted.

So what do we do about revenue?

Democrats say that our current tax system disproportionately burdens the working class and poor and that any increase in sales, tobacco or fuel taxes would simply further shift the tax burden to those who right now are just getting by.

Republicans refuse to consider a reversal of the state income tax cuts or a restoration of the gross production tax rates on oil and gas companies.

In 1992, Oklahoma voters adopted State Question 640, requiring the vote of at least 75% of both houses of the legislature to increase taxes. That equates to 76 votes in the House and 36 votes in the Senate. Even though Republicans outnumber the Democrats in the State House by 74-27 and in the State Senate by 39-9, the Republicans cannot increase sales taxes or tobacco taxes or fuel taxes without at least 3 or 4 Democratic votes.

Democrats have been resolute that they are not willing to vote in favor of a sales tax increase on any items, including cigarettes or vehicles, if the Republicans don’t make high income earners and oil and gas companies pay their fair share of taxes.

Rather than reverse any of the income tax cuts or restore the oil and gas tax rate, the Republicans chose to enact tax increases on the sale of tobacco and automobiles and ended up with the decision issued by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.

The current impasse brings to mind a story about five Chinese brothers from one of my grade school readers. It was written by Claire Hutchet Bishop in 1938 but was based on a legendary Chinese folk tale. The story involved a family whose five sons looked exactly alike and each possessed a special talent. One could swallow the sea, one had an iron neck, one could stretch his legs for miles, one could not be burned and one could hold his breath forever.

The story begins when the brother who could swallow the sea was gathering fish from the bottom of the sea. When that brother agreed to allow a young boy to accompany him, the youngster ignores the brother’s repeated warning to go to higher ground. When the brother can no longer hold the sea, the young boy is drowned. The village charges the brother with murder and sentences him to death.

One by one, unbeknownst to the villagers, the four remaining brothers each assume the condemned brother’s place and each use their own superhuman ability to survive (one cannot be beheaded, one cannot be drowned, one cannot be burned, and one cannot be suffocated). At the end of the story, a judge decrees that the accused must have been innocent, since he could not be executed.

The legend originates from the Ming Dynasty and is over six hundred years old. Each adaption varies slightly with some accounts having as many as ten brothers. The lesson however, is always the same. The brothers are only able to survive by working in unity. That is a lesson that lawmakers should heed.

The current impasse is detrimental to the citizens of our state. Voters want lawmakers to work together for a bi-partisan solution. State Question 640 forces that cooperation. Negotiation is the only path to resolution. It is past time to negotiate and all things must be on the table.   

Thanks for allowing me to serve in the Oklahoma legislature. If you have questions or comments, please call 405-557-7401 or write David.Perryman@OKHouse.gov.

Migratory Patterns, Then and Now

Migratory Patterns, Then and Now - August 6, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

In a hollow, deep in the heart of the Ouachita Mountains on an October Sunday afternoon 56 years ago, more than 25,000 Oklahomans patiently gathered at a remote junction for the formal opening of a road. The striking size of the crowd was because it was not just anyone who would be cutting the ribbon.

The President of the United States was paying a visit. While the official purpose of the ceremony was the dedication of a north-south highway across mountain ranges that predominately run east and west, the family of U.S. Senator Robert S. Kerr maintains that the real purpose of President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 visit was to return a favor to Kerr who had stood solidly with Kennedy and delivered a bloc of votes on a Medicare bill that was very important to JFK.

Regardless of the backstage story, without the strong friendship between Kennedy and Kerr, Oklahoma would not have been front and center on that fall day as the crowd watched the tandem rotor helicopter come over the mountain peak at Big Cedar. President Kennedy climbed down from helicopter and walked next to the crowd, he saw hope in the face of Oklahomans who were only a couple of decades removed from the most difficult economic times that they and their families had ever faced.

But things were better. President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the infrastructure improvements that had followed had provided jobs even in rural Oklahoma. President Kennedy recognized this in his speech. 

He began, “I am proud to come to Oklahoma. During the campaign last year I met many citizens of this State, but not in this State. I met them in Alaska, where many Oklahomans had gone in the thirties to build a new life. I met them in the valleys of California, where many citizens of this State had gone in the thirties to build a better life.” President Kennedy lamented those hard times that had driven Oklahomans to other states in search of ways to support their families.

The President also recognized that because of the leadership of men like Robert S. Kerr, Carl Albert, Mike Monroney and Tom Steed, Oklahoma’s future had changed. Because of infrastructure improvements that had been promoted and championed by these men and the priority that they placed on allowing federal dollars to be invested in our state, Oklahoma’s future would allow our best and brightest as well as our children and grandchildren to provide for their families here and not migrate to other states.

He said, “Now the citizens of Oklahoma stay in Oklahoma. Now they recognize the opportunities that are to be found in this State – and Oklahomans, instead of leaving, are coming home. President Kennedy credited the reversal of the migration to the commitment and determination of Oklahomans to build Oklahoma for them and their posterity. The message was clear.

The reverse of that message is just as clear…to send Oklahomans to other states, we only need to ignore infrastructure needs, and starve education and health care. When visionary men and women are removed from the equation and Oklahoma’s policy decisions are based solely on the benefit that laws will provide to corporate interests, it is just a matter of time that Oklahomans will leave Oklahoma for the exact same reason that Oklahomans migrated to California and Alaska in the 1930’s.

The outward migration of Oklahoma educators is simply a symptom of a much larger problem. A state government that no longer meets the needs of its people is no longer a government of the people and Oklahoma has reached that point.

To make up for quality teachers that are leaving the state or leaving the profession or both, the State Board of Education recently announced that in July 2017, more than 220 Emergency Certifications were issued as compared to fewer than 80 in the same month last year. For fiscal year 2017,there were a record number of 1200 emergency certifications issued reflecting an increase of about 9% over the previous year. To put those numbers in perspective, just five years ago Oklahoma issued just 30 emergency certifications all year long.

Like education, rural hospitals, ambulance services and clinics are foundering because Oklahoma’s policy decisions leave hundreds of millions of dollars of federal health care dollars on the table. Those dollars are the life-blood of health care and are vital to the medical and medical related industries in our state.

It is imperative that we look toward the future. It is imperative that we understand the value of investing in ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. As a state, our collective tomorrows depend on it.

Thank you for allowing me to serve in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. It is truly an honor. Call or write with any questions, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@OKHouse.gov.

When Six of One is NOT Half a Dozen of Another

When Six of One is NOT Half a Dozen of Another - July 30, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

                My Dad was a Vo-Ag Instructor of the old school. He taught hundreds of young men about much more than just farming and ranching. Maybe it was because he grew up young having lost his mother, enlisted in the Navy and married my mother all before he graduated high school. Maybe it was because he understood that in life few decisions are either good or bad but the bulk of our decisions are what we make of them.

He taught young men that dwelling on success was just as harmful as dwelling on failure and that if a decision was not obvious, then it was probably “six of one and half a dozen of another.” In fact, that was one of my Dad’s most often used phrases. It wasn’t that he didn’t counsel students; they were taught to fully assess their options. He simply made certain they knew when a decision is made, it is time to move forward with life and not be burdened with ‘second guesses.”

While “six of one and half a dozen of the other” aptly describes many of our life decisions, it is not a suitable adage when we consider how to address Oklahoma’s revenue shortfalls. All taxes are NOT the same.

As the Oklahoma legislature concerns itself with budget shortfalls, revenue failures and devastating cuts to agency appropriations, the debate over cause and effect still echoes through the Capitol rotunda. One group, mostly ultra conservative Republicans, still maintain that the state does not have a revenue problem and that the solution to Oklahoma’s financial situation is to make more budget cuts.

Of the two groups who do believe that Oklahoma has a revenue problem, one, mostly moderate Republicans, seek to cure Oklahoma’s funding problem through the implementation of fees and taxes like a sales tax on new and used automobiles; charging an additional 7.5 cents for each cigarette purchased; and capping the amount that non-itemizing Oklahomans may claim as a standard income tax deduction.

The other, mostly moderate Democrats, believe that Oklahoma’s budget woes are directly related to income tax cuts and oil and gas gross production tax cuts over the past decade. They point to statistics issued by the Oklahoma Policy Institute that those tax cuts cost the state of Oklahoma somewhere between $1.6 and 1.8 Billion per year. That amount of money would go a long way toward filling our budget hole and doing things like paying teachers, repairing highways and making Oklahoma safer.

So what have Oklahomans received in return? Well, the 20% of Oklahomans who make less than $12,700 pay $4 per year less income tax than they did before the cuts. The next 20% who make less than $28,400 annually have seen their income tax go down by $6 per month. The monthly savings for the third 20% who make less than $49,800 is only $19 per month. Unfortunately, these meager savings are eclipsed by literally hundreds and thousands of dollars of lost services, potholes and cuts to education, all of which directly impact low income Oklahomans.

The real winners in the tax cut game are those who earn in the upper 20% of wages who see thousands of dollars in income tax savings. For instance, the upper 1% saw their income tax bill drop an average of $16,519 per year.  That is a lot, but only a very small portion of their average income of $1.6 Million per year.

Unfortunately, those legislators who want to ignore the income tax cuts and make up the difference in sales tax and taxes on services and tobacco are simply piling more of a burden on lower income Oklahomans who spend 100% of their income while allowing the wealthy who keep much more of their income (and very likely spend less in our state) to enjoy the lower income tax rates.

As a result, Oklahoma’s tax burden has been shifted from high income earners to low income earners. Perhaps that was the goal all along since “six of one is not half dozen of the other.”

Thank you for allowing me to serve in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. It is truly an honor.  Call or write with any questions 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@OKHouse.gov.

A Zenger of a Publisher

A Zenger of a Publisher - July 23, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

                In January 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote to fellow Virginian and Continental Congressman Edward Carrington, that, “the basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter, but I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them.”

Jefferson believed that a free press and an educated electorate were essential to a free society. His belief was based upon more than a whim. He knew the story of a small, family owned newspaper that was published on Manhattan Island for only 18 years, but during that short span laid the groundwork for one of America’s most enduring and important freedoms. You too should know that story in the era before the Bill of Rights and when truth was not a defense to a charge of libel or slander directed toward the government.

The year was 1708 and impoverished German refugee Nicolaus Zenger had taken his family in search of a better life. In England, his group was called “disease-ridden, Catholic bandits who had arrived in England ‘to eat the Bread out of the Mouths of our People.’” That country was politically polarized over the immigration debate from local pubs to the floor of Parliament.

The group was “dispersed” to New York in 1710 where Nicolaus died shortly after arrival. One son, John Peter Zenger served a six year apprenticeship and opened his own print shop at age 29. When Zenger was 35, King James II, appointed William Cosby as the 24th Colonial Governor of the Province of New York. Cosby was very wealthy and oppressive and shortly after being installed demanded that a popular former governor pay him half of the money earned prior to Cosby’s arrival. When his request was denied, Cosby sought to but anticipated that he would lose in a jury trial. He disposed of this problem by demanding that the case be heard by three judges in lieu of a jury of the defendant’s peers. Two of the judges were friendly to the new Governor and ruled in his favor, but the third wrote a stinging dissent detailing the illegality of the proceeding. Cosby promptly fired the dissenting Judge.

In the following weeks, Cosby attempted (but failed) to rig the election of an assemblyman; enrich himself through a multitude of other improprieties including the illegal seizure of lands; stole tax dollars; failed to protect settlements from Indian attack; and even colluded with the enemy French by allowing spy ships into New York Harbor.

John Peter Zenger responded to the oppressive and wrongful acts of Cosby by detailing the antics in his New York Weekly Journal, and called Cosby’s acts “a threat to the liberties and properties” of the people.

It would not have been out of character for Cosby to have been alleging a “witch hunt;” or that the media was “out to get him;” or that the “failing” New York Weekly Journal was full of “fake news.” History tells us that Cosby retaliated by attempting to get Zenger indicted for libel by a grand jury and to seize and burn copies of the Journal. When unsuccessful, Cosby ordered Zenger arrested and jailed for nine months awaiting trial in the pre-Bill of Rights Era.

At Zenger’s eventual trial, 282 years ago next week, his attorney, Philadelphia lawyer Andrew Hamilton, famously told the jury, “It is not the cause of one poor printer, but the cause of liberty.”  Fortunately, the jury was convinced and according to historian Leonard Levy “the Zenger verdict made people exult in liberty and the relationship of liberty of the press to liberty itself.”

That relationship exists today and it is essential that Americans understand that relationship. We are fortunate that Jefferson and our forefathers knew the story of Zenger’s newspaper and guaranteed that right in our First Amendment Freedom of the Press.