Pressure Cooking at the Capitol

Pressure Cooking at the Capitol - February 11, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

In 1917, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported steam-pressure cookers provided the safest way to eliminate botulism causing bacteria when canning meats vegetables. Northwestern Iron and Steel, a Eau Claire, Wisconsin company was in the right place at the right time.

Formed in 1905 to build cement mixers, the company started manufacturing huge retorts, or steam pressure cookers, for the canning industry and for hotel use. The 1917 announcement spurred a boom for Northwestern Iron and Steel as they produced and marketed a relatively small 18-quart model under the trade name National Pressure Cooker.

One of those cast aluminum pressure cookers found its way into the home of my great-grandmother’s Caddo County kitchen around 1918. With its thick, heavy lid, wingnuts, petcock, regulator and gauge, it has become a prized family heirloom that looks like it would be every bit at home in a science lab as in a post-World War I kitchen.

During the home canning process, steam pressure builds when water is heated. Likewise, political pressure rises when public needs are not addressed in a timely manner. Such has been the case over the past decade during a period of unprecedented oil and gas exploration, including the period when oil prices exceeded $100 per barrel.

Despite those record breaking “good times,” the wages of employees of DHS and Corrections and every other state agency, as well as teachers have been neglected. During that time, most state agencies have seen personnel cuts as great as 35% and have seen the integrity of their retirement plan undermined. Likewise, teachers all across Oklahoma have seen zero wage growth and are fleeing the state in droves for better pay.

How could this have happened? Why would a state refuse to fairly compensate its employees? With a red hot Oklahoma economy, why would state leaders refuse to see that state services, including education be funded?

The answer is simple. Instead of compensating teachers and other employees, state leaders, with the backing of corporate boardroom billionaires chose to cut Income Taxes on high wage earners and to cut the Gross Production Tax rate on oil and gas. With a “get it while you can” attitude, more than a billion dollars a year in tax cuts, incentives and credits benefitted them and other political campaign donors.

Now, wage earners across Oklahoma who are feeling the need state services and a quality education for their kids have “turned up the pressure” on lawmakers to restore the 7% Gross Production Tax and to pay teachers a fair wage.

In a panic, the same boardroom billionaires who for a decade had been enjoying the profits of a ridiculously low GPT and had orchestrated near poverty level wages for teachers and other state employees devised a plan to “relieve the pressure” for a 7% GPT. They reasoned that if they allowed the GPT to be set at only 4% and tossed teachers a bone, the matter would be “out of sight, out of mind” for  and voters would remain quiet for at least another decade or so. Their plan did not provide a raise for state employees because that “didn’t poll well.”

To prevent a restoration of the income tax on high wage earners, they decided to make up the difference by imposing taxes on working Oklahomans and double taxing renewable energy sources like wind, solar and hydroelectric power to slow down the speed by which clean energy was growing in our state.

Will the plan work to “relieve the pressure” and allow them to continue pocketing millions in tax savings without fixing the problem? Will state employees and core services continue to be neglected? The answers are Yes, so long as Oklahoma voters allow it.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as State Representative.  If you have questions or comments about this issue or any other matter, please contact me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Separation of Oil and State

Separation of Oil and State - February 4, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

What did Standard Oil of California, Phillips Petroleum, General Motors, Firestone Tire & Rubber  and the Mack Truck Company have in common between 1938 and 1947?

According to indictments issued out of the Federal District Court of Southern California in 1947, they and four other companies formed a company named National City Lines which together with a commonly owned sister company  named Pacific City Lines had acquired 46 electric transit systems in 45 American cities in 16 states.

The common interest of the corporate owners of National City Lines was that they represented industries that stood to benefit much more from shuttling passengers using gasoline and rubber rather than electricity and rails.

The conviction came in 1949 with Phillips Petroleum, Standard Oil of California and three other corporate shareholders found guilty of “conspiring to acquire control of a number of transit companies, forming a transportation monopoly” and “conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies to companies owned by National City Lines” in violation of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act.

Few schemes to obliterate one industry in pursuit of corporate profits have been as thoroughly documented as the “electric streetcar scandal” of the 1940’s,

Today, the petroleum industry utilizes a more “politically correct” method to attain the goal of  eliminating technologies that might decrease demand for oil and gas. According to one Washington D.C. Watchdog group, over $114 million has been paid by the oil, gas and coal industries over the last decade to purchase access and influence in Washington. As a result, the oil industry has captured favor of and influence over a sufficient number of elected officials to dictate government policy. An obvious indicator of this influence is the fact that a 41 year executive of Exxon, now ExxonMobile, serves as the United States Secretary of State.

The influence of shrewdly placed oil and gas campaign contributions has been lucrative for Oklahoma drillers. Not only is the severance tax (gross production tax) rate paid by oil and gas in Oklahoma approximately one third of the rate applicable in the next lowest energy producing state, the industry receives special protections from civil liability and local regulation.

These civil liability protections, the nation’s lowest effective severance tax rate, nor the fact that the low tax paid is “in lieu” of ad Valorem property tax and all other taxes  has not satisfied Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry.

In a manner eerily reminiscent of the electric streetcar scandal, the Oklahoma oil and gas industry has allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to undermine renewable energy production in our state. That together with attaining such a degree of influence over the legislature, the corporation commission and the office of the Governor that it is tantamount to a “merger” of interests.

When news broke last session that Governor Fallin had asked the CEO of one of Oklahoma’s largest oil companies if the GPT could be raised, it became very apparent there was no separation between the state and big oil.

So, despite the hundreds of millions of ad Valorem dollars paid annually by wind energy companies to schools, counties, fire districts and other forms of local government, the oil industry and its investors are leaning on legislators to hammer it with double taxation.

The wind industry is already under a greater tax burden than oil and gas and its revenues have replaced scores of WPA era rural school buildings. Keeping those rural schools off the school funding formula frees up hundreds of thousands of dollars for other public schools all across the state.

Not to be overlooked is the fact that the wind industry and the cheap power that it generates keeps electric bills low for all Oklahomans.

No one wants to harm the oil industry. We are blessed to have abundant natural resources in this state. However, until there is a separation of oil and state, the citizens of Oklahoma get the short end of the stick.

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

The Fatted Calf

The Fatted Calf - January 28, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

 In 1978, a Texas doctor named Ron Thomas, opened a restaurant that he named “The Fatted Calf.” The restaurant was somewhat unique in that the menus had no prices. Thomas’ idea was that each customer would pay according their own conscience and ability, as little or as much as they deemed fair and appropriate.

Under ideal circumstances, people of more limited means would pay what they could, even if their payment was less than the cost of the meal. Likewise, customers who were able would ideally pay a bit extra so that in the long run, everything would even out and the owner would gross enough in receipts to cover food costs, employee pay, overhead and maybe make a little profit.

Dr. Thomas’ Sanger, Texas, “experiment” reflected the result that many other establishments using this “business model” find. Most report that on average they receive about 85% of what is needed to stay open and do not succeed without substantial financial subsidies.

Without delving off into a dissertation on the psychology of customers or their economic habits, the owner of The Fatted Calf confirmed that it is imperative to recognize the actual cost of delivering a quality meal before establishing retail prices. Otherwise, it is possible that revenue will not cover expenses.

With full realization that a free enterprise business model does not directly translate into the delivery of government services, there are basic elements that alike and some that are very different.

Both have costs that are related to the number of “customers” that they must serve. However, a restaurant has the ability to limit the number of meals that it will serve. If business is good, a baker may purchase additional flour and more ovens in anticipation of receiving more revenue and hence a larger profit.

Unfortunately, public schools do not have the ability to turn away “customers” and despite the fact that there were 645,000 students in 2008 and 695,000 a decade later, the 8% increase has not equated to an 8% increase in funding. Instead, per student funding of Oklahoma’s K-12 education formula is down by 22.8 percent since 2008. The percentage cut in Oklahoma is the largest of any state. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, it works out to a decrease of $810 per student, adjusted for inflation.

Also woefully underfunded is the Oklahoma Department of Corrections which is currently at 109% of capacity and clipping along incarcerating women at the highest rate in the country and in third place with men, needing $1.6 Billion to pay its bills. These are but two examples of a lack of government revenue. Mental health care and a myriad of other core government services must also be funded.

When I was first elected to the House of Representatives, Zero Based Budgeting was all the rage. Legislators and the lobbyists whose money elected them went on and on about how each agencies budget should be stripped down to zero and built back each year so that we would REALLY know the cost of government services. After one or two agencies were reviewed, it became very apparent that building a budget based on need was not the cost saver that it claimed to be.

As it became undeniable that Oklahoma had a revenue problem, the oil and gas industry “stepped up” to “offer” a generous 4% gross production tax to “solve” the problem. In truth, they realized that Oklahomans had become aware of 10 years of tax cuts, tax breaks and incentives that had cost the state over a billion dollars per year. Fearing public outcry for a restoration to the historical 7% GPT Rate the industry is attempting to “name its own tax rate.”

As citizens, we dutifully pay our taxes and want those taxes to be used for services to the citizens of Oklahoma. None of us necessarily like taxes, but there is a fundamental  unfairness that a single industry and its shareholders deem themselves worthy to “set their own rate” simply because they exercise greater political clout than working Oklahomans.

The Fatted Calf failed because it gave away its revenue. Oklahoma, too, will fail if it continues to allow billion dollar industries to drain the state’s coffers to the detriment of working Oklahomans and our children.

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

Shutting Down the Government Oklahoma Style

Shutting Down the Government Oklahoma Style - January 21, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

                The past week has been a display of that seamy underside of government that repulses so many Americans. Political parties are more concerned about who gets the blame for shutting down the government rather than reaching consensus on what is best for our country. Four times in the past 25 years the federal government allowed itself to be shut down.

                The most recent edition of Washington gridlock has occurred because the federal government failed to pass a full appropriations bill prior to the beginning of the fiscal year and now is attempting to piecemeal the federal budget by a series of continuing resolutions. Since keeping the federal government open is theoretically a goal of both the Democrats and the Republicans, each have historically attempted to leverage their positions when a vote is needed.

                In this year’s version, the Republicans are in the majority in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate and of course control the White House. Politically, the minority party does not receive much consideration for their version of what is best for America and therefore when someone comes along and wants a legislator’s vote, conventional wisdom and good government would involve a process of bargaining to arrive at a solution that is palatable to all involved.

This past week it became clear that the majority is seeking the minority’s votes and the minority is attempting to initiate the process of negotiation to address the CHIP program and DACA. Without getting in the weeds, the CHIP program is the Childrens Health Insurance Program that provides states with matching funds for health insurance for kids whose families are too poor to afford health insurance coverage. DACA is the program that allows immigrants who were living in the U.S. in 2007, were brought to the Country by their families before their 16th birthday, have lived here continuously, have taken advantage of educational opportunities, have not been in trouble with the law, and re-apply every two years but are barred from applying for citizenship because of their status as a DACA recipient.

                The gridlock has arisen because one party wants the CHIP program and DACA to be voted on and the other party refuses to allow it to be voted on.  While those are federal issues and the federal government does not have a Constitutional provision requiring a balanced budget, Oklahoma is facing a remarkably similar version of gridlock.

Over the past ten years, Oklahoma has adopted budget after budget that contain cuts to agencies and underfunds core services.

Cutting the K-12 Education budget by reducing state aid by 26.9% since 2008 results in 4 day school weeks and the crippling of a school district’s ability to educate children. Cutting the state’s Higher Education budget by 17.8% between 2012 and 2017 results in the inability of the state to produce college graduates and those students who do graduate often do so with a mountain of college debt.

Oklahomans rank third in the nation (22.4%) for affliction of mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar or anxiety disorders. Budgetary cuts have left thousands of patients without services and medication.

 The cuts go on and on and involve health care, hospitals, roads and bridges and virtually every other aspect of state government.

The bottom line is, there is more than one way to shut down a government and Oklahoma shows day in and day out that it is very proficient in doing so on a routine basis.

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

Seeing the Light

Seeing the Light - January 14, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

In the wee hours of a January 1947 morning, Lilly Williams was driving toward Montgomery, Alabama. Her passengers were her son and his band who a few months earlier had been rejected by the Grand Old Opry. As Lily neared the city, she saw the distant lights of Dannelly Field, the local airport.

Lily attempted to wake up the sleeping band members to report that she had “seen the light.” Her son, Hank, stirred from a deep sleep to hear the phrase, “I saw the light.” Within hours Hank Williams had completed the lyrics and less than 90 days later, recorded for MGM Records, “I Saw The Light,” a gospel song for the ages.

Over the past several weeks, I have been one of about eight legislators (two from each party from each house) who were summoned to meet with a group of Oklahoma City business leaders who also are claiming to have “seen the light.” The gist of their presentation was that Oklahoma cannot sustain an educational system or health care without additional recurring revenue sources.

An epiphany is defined as a “sudden or striking realization.” Any group of Oklahomans whose list of recent epiphanies include the realization that public education in every corner of the state needs adequate funding or that the current devastation of rural health care is the direct result of destructive, politically-driven decisions of state leaders, has either been overly focused on their corporate balance sheet or is so blindly committed to partisan dogma that reality takes a back seat to rhetoric in their world.

As I looked around, I saw men who had fought for years to shift money from public education to private schools, to reduce the tax burden on corporations and high wage earners, to suppress wages, stifle equal pay and block working Oklahomans access to healthcare.

So therefore, it was refreshing to hear men in expensive suits and whose cufflinks cost more than my first car say that they were there to help. It was refreshing to hear them propose a plan that incorporated many of the proposals that the House Democrats had repeatedly put forth in our “Restore Oklahoma” plan.

It was refreshing to watch as their “solutions” displayed recognition that Oklahoma’s cuts to oil and gas Gross Production Tax and income tax cuts for high wage earners had devastated Oklahoma’s ability to educate its children and neglected the needs of health care providers and compromised the ability of state agencies like the Department of Health to perform statutory duties directed by law.

There is much common ground upon which we can build. The group proposed changes to the state’s income tax system and offered a comparatively modest increase in the gross production tax rate in an attempt to stave off a citizens’ initiative petition that will, according to most polls, increase the GPT to 7%. Perhaps the most promising aspect of the meetings is that the House Democrats (82% of whom voted for a similar plan in this year’s first special session) and Step Up Oklahoma seem unified in the belief that if we don’t invest in Oklahoma’s teachers, public employees, healthcare, education, roads and corrections, our entire state economy is left in peril.

While the devil is always in the details, the most serious non-fiscal impediments to the plan’s success is the businessmen’s demand for school voucher expansion, rural school consolidation and privatization of Medicaid.    

In short, it is past time that these businessmen “see the light” and we are ready to work with them to build on common ground and form a budget solution that works for all Oklahomans.

It is interesting to note that when his mother woke Hank Williams to tell him that she had “seen the light,” he was inebriated in the back seat. That incident changed Hank and changed both country and gospel music. Wouldn’t it be magnificent if this group’s epiphany actually changed them and changed Oklahoma.

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

Does Diversity Really Make Us Stronger

Does Diversity Really Make Us Stronger - January 7, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

We are often told that diversity makes us stronger. Tom Perez, former United States Secretary of Labor said, “Our workforce and our entire economy are strongest when we embrace diversity to its fullest, and that means opening doors of opportunity to everyone and recognizing that the American Dream excludes no one.”

But are we really striving for diversity? Does America share a common goal in anything? NASA was once a monument to national pride accomplished by great scientific minds from many countries that were divided by their heritage and united by their research.

Consequently, America attained a goal that was promoted by President John Kennedy’s vision of sending a man to the moon. That feat was not easy. The science was hard and so were more than a few citizens. Many claimed that a space program was not an essential function of government and many, like our neighbor, believed until the day they died that any moonwalk was “fake news” and that the footage was filmed on the back lot of some Hollywood movie studio.

For whatever reason, the envelope was not pushed further and the news now tells us that the most recent American to walk on the moon died last week…at age 83.

For diversity to work, we must engage in the pursuit of a common goal. It doesn’t matter that the common goal involves a space program or even a world cup championship. Without a common purpose we are but individuals whose pursuits tend to be short sighted and self-serving.

Oklahoma is losing, or has lost its commonality. As a result, education and healthcare and infrastructure suffer.

Without commonality our Public School funding is diverted into vouchers and educational savings accounts. Senator Ron Sharp authored an article on the editorial page of the Oklahoman last week, the gist of which was that “Charter Schools are bad for rural Oklahoma and for poverty areas and for other public schools.” Despite this knowledge, a very powerful lobby continues to assault the education of Oklahoma children though the promotion of charter schools.

Without commonality, diversity no longer resides in our past, but in our future.

Another example is that many point toward a stock market with record earnings as proof that our economy is strong and vibrant. However, concealed by those record gains is a stark fact with which we must deal. Low wages, stagnant wages and slow wage gains may be beneficial to industry but not to employees across Oklahoma. This past week a business page article in the Oklahoman explained that “Modest U.S. Hiring, slow wage gains keep Wall Street happy.”

Another article disclosed that an Oklahoma corporation posted a First Quarter profit of $11.4 Million. While that was great for the corporation, it didn’t do much for employees whose benefits do not include health insurance or any form of health care or paid time off for sickness. While the Oklahoma governor and legislature refused to accept federal dollars to provide health benefits for working Oklahomans whose employers neglect to do so, the scant benefits that were available ten years ago have been eliminated or pared back to ineffectiveness.

Oklahomans are hurting. While the business climate is touted to be the 12th best in the country, many jobs that are available fail to provide living wages and are not sufficient to allow families to be independent or take care of even minor health problems. Compounding the problem is that many young Oklahomans who have tried to better their situation have mountains of college debt and are now in dire situations that thousands are unable to climb out of.

Diversity should be defined by where we have come from and not where we are headed.

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

Cooking at the Capitol

Cooking at the Capitol - December 31, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

In my family, holiday traditions have always been as much about food as they are about the gathering of extended family. Some of my best memories of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year are the smells and tastes of foods that are often reserved for special occasions.

With absolute predictability, we not only knew what each aunt would be bringing, we also knew what bowl or dish it would arrive in. Many of the dishes containing the food had been in our family for decades, if not generations, and were as much of our family tradition as what they contained.

Sometimes, an elderly aunt would “pass the baton” by presenting a recipe AND the bowl that it was served in to a younger family member.

While there might be upwards of 8 to 12 “cooks in the kitchen” making final preparations for a specific holiday meal, each knew the boundaries of their bailiwick and never crossed the line in such a manner as would spoil someone else’s culinary offering.

Perhaps state legislators and other partisan politicians in Oklahoma government would best serve their state by tending to their own “bailiwick.” In a classic case of “too many cooks spoiling the broth,” a republican led committee that claims to be “investigatory” has joined a republican led audit and a republican led grand jury in trampling around a state agency that has been intentionally underfunded and set up to fail.

This new committee is reminiscent of the republican led “secret” investigatory committee that was formed in January of 2017 to investigate sexual harassment claims against a republican legislator. There is little reason to believe anything will be “discovered” if it would serve the party best for it to “not be discovered.”

It came as no surprise that the sexual harassment investigation did not “discover” that the $28,414.20 in state funds paid to the person who claimed that she was harassed or the $16,085.80 in state funds paid to her attorneys was paid by house leadership in violation of 58 O.S. Section 158(A). Instead, the legislator was allowed to set his own resignation date and the committee rode into the sunset.

Now another politically motivated republican led “investigatory committee” is trampling the evidence while a republican state auditor who has allegedly been aware of the facts for months rushed in the past several days to start an “audit” only to announce a day or two later that he personally shouldn’t be involved but that people who work for him would be. Not to be outdone, the republican attorney general who was appointed by the governor just a few months ago has initiated a grand jury to “investigate” those involved, including a number of other Fallin appointees.

In a breath of fresh air, the United States Department of Justice and the FBI have announced that it will investigate. In light of that announcement, Oklahoma would best be served if the partisans and those who might have a motive to prevent an embarrassment to a specific political party would “get out of the kitchen” and not spoil evidence.

Most observers agree that there are no missing funds and instead believe that the agency likely used federal funds to pay for state or non-eligible expenses with the intention to have other funds available to use for eligible expenses. Such a method of money management is not foreign to the state legislature which has made a practice of sweeping revolving funds from state agencies to plug budget gaps for the past 7 or 8 years.

Likewise, the Director of State Finance used the same money management method last year when he failed to follow the Oklahoma Constitution and swept millions from the Rainy Day Fund. The only difference is that the Director of State Finance, a Fallin appointee, had access to the Attorney General, another Fallin appointee and was able to secure an Attorney General “opinion” that the executive branch of state government didn’t have to follow the Oklahoma Constitution.

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

 

Miracle on 23rd Street

Miracle on 23rd Street - December 17, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

One of the three or four best known Christmas movies is the 1947 classic, “Miracle on 34th Street” wherein nursing home resident Kris Kringle’s status as Santa Claus is challenged and is subjected to a competency hearing. Kris is placed at risk of being committed to a mental hospital instead of securing his rightful recognition as the one and only Santa Claus.

In the end, there are a number of “miracles,” not the least of which is the fact that when the United States Post Office delivers to Kris 21 mail bags stuffed with letters to Santa Claus, the Judge confirms the postal service’s recognition of Kris and dismisses the competency hearing.

With Christmas approaching, the Oklahoma legislature is in dire need of a “Miracle on 23rd Street.” Twenty-third and Lincoln at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City, that is.

A Second Special Session has been called for December 18 to address funding for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and to avoid Medicaid provider cuts. There has been speculation that the Governor may broaden the purpose statement for this Second Special Session to adjust funding for the Oklahoma’s Advantage Waiver program and for Department of Mental Health funding.

Piecemealing a budget is no way to provide services for our citizens who are elderly, mentally ill, substance abusers and developmentally disabled. Nursing homes and other health care providers that try to predict the needs of Oklahoma residents are left with ambiguity and a lack of direction.

Non-profit entities that are tasked with providing counseling, guidance and medical care to the 22.4% of Oklahomans who suffer from some degree of mental illness and the 11.9% of Oklahomans who have substance abuse disorders are unable to ramp up and ramp down services when the state legislature allows funding levels to swing wildly out of control. That translates to between 700,000 and 950,000 Oklahomans whose treatment is often rendered ineffective because of intermittent funding.

The budgetary gaps in the Health Care Authority, the Department of Health and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse are simply symptomatic of a funding crisis that affects virtually every state agency. The list goes on. Common Education, Higher Education, Department of Corrections, Department of Transportation, County Government are all asked to provide essential services with fewer appropriated dollars.

Ultimately, when agency cuts render it ineffective, the agency itself becomes the target of legislators who have themselves dropped the ball on their duty to responsibly govern.

Miracle on 34th Street is a great movie. It received Oscars in 1947, from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Edmund Gwenn), Best Writing, Original Story (Valentine Davies) and Best Writing, Screenplay. It was also nominated for Best Picture that year, losing to another iconic movie, “Gentleman’s Agreement.”

Perhaps the greatest miracle that could occur this Christmas would be if the Governor, the Senate and the House of Representatives could come together in a bipartisan manner in the best interest of the State of Oklahoma and reach just that…a “Gentleman’s Agreement” to honestly and faithfully resolve Oklahoma’s perennial budget problem, once and for all.

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

Look No Farther Than Your Own Backyard

Look No Farther Than Your Own Backyard - December 10, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

At the conclusion of her grand adventure in the Land of Oz, Dorothy, made a mature realization that many people never make, “If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn't there, I never really lost it to begin with.”

The Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives and his leadership team would be well served to grab a bowl of popcorn and a copy of L. Frank Baum’s 1939 classic, “Wizard of Oz” for a good old movie night. Instead, for the second time in two years, they have formed committees to “get to the bottom” of a matter through a method that is calculated to control the dialogue and produce a result that will protect their own brand of partisan rhetoric.

This year’s committee has been named the Special Investigative Committee in response to an allegation that the State Health Department had overspent its budget by $30 Million. Unfortunately, the Special Investigative Committee appears more akin to Joseph McCarthy’s Committee on Government Operations in the U.S. Senate in 1954 than a committee to truly understand why the Oklahoma State Department of Health cannot adequately provide services to the citizens of Oklahoma with a budget that has been depleted by a decade of legislative cuts.

Because of the ill will of the Speaker toward the Governor (and the Governor’s reciprocity in kind), those two individuals are no longer looking for solutions and instead have turned toward seeking scapegoats and implicating the other.

Oklahoma could ill afford another witch hunt but when the Speaker formed this committee and directed that the Governor’s staff be subpoenaed, it was apparent that a fiasco in the grand style of McCarthyism was the order of the day. In return, when the Governor called a second special session to convene seven days before Christmas with no plan and no hope the motive was clear.

Unfortunately the wheels are in motion. The Committee will meet. The Chairman will drag the proceedings out over several sessions and at the end, the results will be vague and inconclusive.

What will not be announced with clarity is that $30 Million is not missing. What will be vague is the fact that federal funds were used on state programs and state funds were used to replace federal funds that had to be paid back because the state legislature cut matching dollars. What will not be disclosed is that the director used money from one fund to make payroll and attempted to replace it the next month with revolving fund money that in the meantime had been swept and depleted by the legislature because it was handling money the same way that the director was.

What will not be announced is that the Director of the State Health Department did nothing different than the State Finance Director did when he used cash balances in Treasurer Funds and moved them around to make the month balance or what he did when he used the Rainy Day Fund without the permission of the legislature to cover an expense with the “hope” that it would be replenished before the end of the fiscal year.

What will not be announced with clarity is that the only solution is for the state legislature to take the bold step of restoring recurring revenue that is lacking because it has recklessly and incompetently cut taxes to the point that the state can no longer function.

In the McCarthy hearings, the climax came when Chairman Joseph McCarthy slandered an associate of the Army’s chief counsel, Joseph Welch. Welch fixed McCarthy with a steady glare and declared evenly, “Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness…Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” A stunned McCarthy listened as the packed audience exploded into cheers and applause.

Who in Oklahoma has the courage to tell the Governor and the legislature, “Have you no sense of decency?” The wrongdoing does not lay with agencies that struggle to provide services. The solution is in your own backyard.

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

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.