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.

Oklahoma's Ship of State

Oklahoma’s Ship of State - July 16, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Between the 30th and 38th Parallel are high pressure belts that are often characterized by low winds and little rain. Over land, this phenomenon produces dry arid deserts like northern Mexico and the southwestern United States. At sea, undependable winds and extended periods of calm made the zones dreaded by early sailors.

During the era of sailing ships, vessels transporting goods across the Atlantic to and from the New World would often become stalled for days or even weeks when they encountered the areas of no wind. Many of these ships, particularly from Spain, carried horses to the Americas as part of their cargo.

Stalled and unable to sail, crews frequently ran low on drinking water and to conserve scarce fresh water and lighten their load they sometimes threw the horses overboard. Explorers and sailors reported that the seas were strewn with bodies of horses. Consequently, the area became known as the Horse Latitudes.

Coincidentally, Oklahoma also lies squarely between the 34th and 37th Parallel and failed policies have proven every bit as catastrophic to our state as the lack of wind was to 17th and 18th century sailing ships.

Instead of throwing horses overboard, Oklahoma voters have been duped into casting citizens aside.

What began as an attack on the wages of Oklahoma’s middle class has resulted in low pay and few benefits for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. What started as an assault on our public schools has evolved into a devastation of our educational system from kindergarten through college.

For the past ten years, Oklahoma voters have chosen elected officials who govern at the whim of corporate interests and lobbyists hawking tax cuts for the wealthy and tax increases on the poor and working class.

After a decade of blind adherence to trickle down economic theories, the poor get poorer. Hospitals, ambulance services and clinics are closing because of the number of uninsured Oklahomans who rely upon emergency room doctors as their primary care physicians.

Last week the House Leader of Oklahoma’s majority party admonished the Oklahoma Department of Human Services for cutting programs serving vulnerable children and adults. Those programs include senior nutrition, foster child care and keeping disabled adults in homes rather than nursing homes. In truth, the blame falls on a lack of funding and not the Department of Human Services.

Earlier this month, the State Department of Education announced that Oklahoma would break another record this year in the number of non-certified teachers in our classrooms. Once again, the fault lies with a lack of funding and not the State Department of Education.

The lack of revenue continues to affect scores of agencies that deal with government services like roads, mental health and corrections. Perhaps Oklahomans will someday realize that elections matter.

Not that it can’t get worse...along the equator is another dead zone. It’s called the Doldrums. In the Doldrums, moist air is superheated generating extreme weather like squalls and hurricanes that bear down on stalled ships that were unable to get out of the way. Shipwrecks and castaways often resulted.

Oklahoma’s “Ship of State” is already in Dire Straits and does not need the Doldrums.

Questions or comments, call or write David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

A Noble Act

A Noble Act - July 9, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

                Last week Oklahoma’s Second District Congressman, Markwayne Mullin once again brought the issue of term limits to the political forefront. Rep. Mullin had promised his constituents in 2012 that he would self-impose a six year (three-term) limit on his service in the United States House of Representatives. The newsworthy element of that story was that while nearing the end of his third term, he decided that his work in D.C. was not done and he therefore would run again.

His announcement ignited a firestorm of allegations about “broken promises".  Former United States Senator Tom Coburn was particularly harsh when he went so far as to say that Mullin “had drunk the Kool-Aid” and that “the arrogance of power has affected his thinking and when a man’s word doesn’t mean anything, nothing else matters.”

However, the story behind the story is really more about voter participation than it is about Mullin reneging on his word. Oklahomans have long had a distrust of government. While the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution addresses freedom from religious oppression and freedom of speech, the press and assembly, Oklahoma’s forefathers focused on the POWER OF THE PEOPLE.

The exact language in Section 1 of Oklahoma’s Bill of Rights is, “All political power is inherent in the people; and government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and to promote their general welfare; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it..”

Those alterations and reforms have been frequent and often involve the process of Initiative and Referendum. Lloyd Noble II freshly stinging from a campaign defeat used considerable resources to promote an Initiative Petition for term limits on the state’s elected officials. In September if 1990, when State Question 632 passed by a two-to-one margin, Oklahoma became the first in the country to impose a 12 year lifetime limit on state representatives and senators.

The motto that “Politicians, like diapers, should be changed frequently and for the same reason” was humorous but wholly ignored the fact that voters always have the ability to “term limit” THEIR OWN representative. In all honesty, term limits are more about limiting the terms of SOMEONE ELSE’s representative than one’s own.

Legislators have brought some of this on themselves by undermining the intent of voters who clearly state their intent in Initiative Petition elections. Two recent examples are State Questions 640 and 780.

SQ 640 was the 1992 ballot that passed by 56 to 44 percent and made it clear that any revenue raising measure must be approved by the people UNLESS it received a 75% approval in both the House and the Senate. Legislative leaders promptly tossed that requirement to the wind when they decided to pass revenue measures by a simple majority rather than negotiate about gross production taxes.

SQ 780 was the 2016 ballot that passed by 58 to 42 percent and reclassified some drug and property crimes as misdemeanors instead of felonies. As a result, legislation was introduced to “save voters from themselves” and block other criminal justice reforms.

Another example of elected officials blatantly disregarding the will of the people involves SQ 662, adopted in September 1994. That ballot actually limited the terms of U.S. Representatives (6 years) and U.S. Senators (12 years). Despite the clear message (by a 67% to 33% vote) sent by Oklahoma voters, a federal court ruled that federal term limits violated the U.S. Constitution.

Despite the Court’s ruling, the will of the Oklahoma voters was clear and Article 2, Section 12A remains on the books. One of Oklahoma’s Congressmen is going on 24 years and another is at 14, both greatly exceeding the limits set by voters.  Likewise, one of Oklahoma’s Senators has nearly doubled the time that voters wanted set.

It is no wonder that one of the primary reasons that people don’t vote is that they believe that their vote doesn’t count. Unfortunately, neither the term limits imposed as a result of Lloyd Noble’s crushing defeat nor Markwayne Mullin’s reversal alleviate it one bit.

Questions or comments call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@OKHouse.gov.

Houdini Was An Amateur

Houdini was an Amateur - July 2, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Magician Harry Houdini was legendary. He performed hundreds of magic tricks but he was best known for his “escapes.” He used containers and boxes of wood, boxes of glass, boxes of metal and about any other material a person could imagine. Sometimes the containers would be submerged in water. Sometimes they would be fastened with screws or bolts and sometimes he would be shut inside a riveted iron box. One famous act used a plate glass box secured with chains and padlocks and another “death defying” act involved the spike-lined “Spanish Maiden” box.

While the common theme throughout all of Houdini’s box tricks was the “Art of the Escape,” each individual box contained hidden panels, hidden hinges, removable pins, fake bolts or hidden doors. Houdini was a performer, an actor who controlled his props with precision.

In real life, away from the theatrics of illusion, boxes and containers are designed to provide security and to keep valuables inside beyond the reach of those who might seek to remove or misappropriate the contents.

One such box that Oklahomans have depended on for 32 years is the secure lock box that we call the Rainy Day Fund. Our Rainy Day Fund, or “Constitutional Reserve Fund” was established by a vote of the people in response to the oil bust of the early 1980’s. The rules regarding the fund are extremely strict and created to be a true “lock-box.” Money can be placed in the fund ONLY by the legislature when Oklahoma’s Revenues create a surplus and may ONLY be removed by the legislature and then ONLY in limited percentages.

For example, each year, the Legislature is limited to using only 3/8 of the fund to make up for a shortfall in the current year’s collections. The design of the Constitutional Reserve Fund is to securely protect dollars from being raided by random bureaucrats.

For over three decades, the Fund worked properly. In lean times the LEGISLATURE would, in compliance with the Constitution, use part of the Fund and in times of surplus, the LEGISLATURE would, in compliance with the Constitution, replenish the Fund.

Earlier this year however, Preston Doerflinger, Mary Fallin’s Secretary of Finance, chose to remove 100% of the Constitutional Reserve Fund balance without the permission, consent or knowledge of the State Legislature. While the economic conditions that caused Doerflinger to take the money was a shortfall in this year’s collections, Doerflinger removed $240.7 Million of Oklahoma’s financial safety net and that amount was $149.6 Million more than even the Legislature could have legally removed for that very same purpose.

This week, in a classic case of “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” Attorney General Mike Hunter, also a political appointee of Mary Fallin, has waded into the fray to espouse that simply because the State Treasurer is the officer who performs the ministerial duty of placing the money INTO the Rainy Day Fund, that somehow makes the Constitutional Reserve Fund just another treasury fund that the Governor’s staff can move around at will.

The Attorney General totally ignored the fact that when Oklahoma voters adopted State Question 587 by a margin of 2 to 1, the Ballot Title clearly said the “MEASURE LIMITS THE WAY THAT RESERVE FUNDS CAN BE SPENT.”  Yes, Court Decisions trump A.G. Opinions, but why would one Fallin appointee force citizens to spend money to litigate to protect the integrity of our lock-box just to bail out another Fallin appointee. Houdini’s tricks of deceit and diversion don’t hold a candle to these political antics.

For comments and questions, David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Labor Omnia Vincit

Labor Omnia Vincit - June 25, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

Most every Oklahoman is familiar with the state’s motto, Labor Omnia Vincit and many are able to translate the Latin to English, Labor Conquers All. Few however know the significance of those words and how the state came to claim that motto.

The phrase can be traced to the Roman poet, Virgil, who first used a similar phrase in 29 B.C. to promote Caesar Augustus’ encouragement for laborers to “return to the land.” Through the centuries, the phrase has been used to recognize the virtue, pride and power of reaping the rewards of one’s own labor.

In 1893, Frank Greer, a civic minded Guthrie newspaperman undertook to promote a Grand Seal for the newly formed Oklahoma Territory. His design was described in the Second Territorial Legislatures’ HB 66 as recounted by a 1957 article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma.

On March 10, 1893, the seal became official and Oklahoma Territory proudly proclaimed the value of labor. A 1907 State Seal Committee commissioned by the Constitutional Convention was headed up by Native American Gabe Parker combined the Grand Seal of Oklahoma Territory with the Official Seal of the proposed State of Sequoyah and thus the Great Seal of the State of Oklahoma’s proudly proclaimed that LABOR CONQUERS ALL.

The Oklahoma Constitution’s Preamble provided a similar theme in that the State’s premier law would be to “promote our general welfare.” In fact, recognizing the dangers and pitfalls of forces that are hostile to labor, Article 2, Section 32 of the Oklahoma Constitution was included to make it clear that, “Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free government, and shall never be allowed.”

For more than ninety years, Oklahoma and the people of Oklahoma emphasized the importance of labor. Oklahoma’s labor statutes, Title 40, came to include a couple of statutes clearly outlining the importance of Oklahoma’s employees.

Section 197.1 says that, “The welfare of the State of Oklahoma demands that the working people of Oklahoma be protected from conditions of labor which have a pernicious effect on their health or morals. The State of Oklahoma, therefore, exercising herein its police and sovereign power, declares that inadequate wages and insanitary conditions of labor exert such pernicious effect.

Section 197.2 provides, “It shall be unlawful to employ workers in any industry or occupation within the State of Oklahoma under conditions of labor detrimental to their health or morals and it shall be unlawful to employ workers in any industry within the State of Oklahoma at wages which are not adequate for their maintenance.”

So where along the way did Oklahoma lose its emphasis on the value of labor? Why are Oklahomans no longer concerned about the “pernicious effect” that inadequate wages have on the health and morals of Oklahoma’s families?

A number of things have changed to shift the power from employees to “perpetuities and monopolies” and the effect is devastating. The sole policy goal of the state legislature over the past decade has been to make Oklahoma more “business friendly.” Governor Mary Fallin’s press release of June 22, 2017, touted Oklahoma’s continued efforts to “position itself well for business.” It cited a Chief Executive magazine article where Oklahoma had moved from 18th to 17th as the “Best State for Business.” What Governor Fallin did not tout was the finding by the magazine that all is not well in Oklahoma and as a state is one of the most depressed visited.

Perhaps a return to our roots would improve our state. A goal of making Oklahoma better for its citizens would be welcomed. Maybe doing ANYTHING for its citizens would be welcomed.

Questions or comments call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@OKHouse.gov.

Hoisted By Our Own Petard

Hoisted By Our Own Petard - August 24, 2014

State Representative David Perryman

During the age of moats and fortified castles, attacking armies trained troops as petardiers.  The dangerous job of the petardier was to affix a bomb to a wall or gate in an attempt to blow a hole in the fortification.

This type of weapon was called a petard and was designed so that ideally, the force of the explosion would be directed toward the barrier or wall to which the petard was attached and allow it to be breached. Petardiers however did not have the modern advantage of remote or electronic detonation and therefore lighting a fuse and escaping the consequences of an explosion gone awry were risky endeavors.

Shakespeare referred to an engineer in Act 3 of Hamlet, who would not escape the explosion and would be “hoisted by his own petard.” The phrase today refers to the unintended harm caused by one’s own devices.  An idiom with similar meaning and which we are much more familiar is to shoot oneself in the foot.

Unfortunately, these are maladies that afflict Oklahoma and Oklahomans far too frequently.  The list of faux pas involves education, corrections, roads, bridges and highways, tax credits, and a host of other issues which voters will one day realize that we need to start digging out of.

Case in point: Without exception, each and every corporation, employer or business entity who we want to bring jobs to our state, says that an educated and trained workforce is the number one economic development issue that must exist here before they invest in the state.

How does state government respond?

The legislature attempts to undermine the OHLAP program, Oklahoma’s Promise that is producing quality college graduates in record numbers. The Governor and State Superintendent saddle Oklahoma’s school districts with a dysfunctional A-F Report Card that is calculated to favor charter schools and is faulty in design and implementation.

With a total lack of direction, the state legislature in 2010 adopts Common Core, ushers in high stakes testing that does not accurately gauge student achievement or teacher effectiveness, but effectively eliminates instruction on any subject other than the test mandates.

Millions of dollars are spent on common core training and curriculum and before its implementation, the state, without a back-up plan, repeals common core, reverts to Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS Skills) which were the old educational standards having previously universally declared to be insufficient to make students “college and career ready.”

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have now been asked to reverse course and make a determination that the insufficient PASS skills are now sufficient; otherwise Oklahoma will likely lose its No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver.

According to Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard, the loss of the NCLB waiver could cost Oklahoma millions of dollars.  Some sources say up to $27 Million with additional restrictions on about $70 Million more. Oklahoma, already among the most federally dependent states can ill afford that to happen.

Alarmingly, Oklahoma Department of Education spokesman, Phil Bacharach confirmed last week that mid-year teacher layoffs were possible in the absence of the NCLB waiver.

As Ollie would say to Stan, “Well here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Educators implore the state to set the standards, stop moving the target and let them teach their students to excel. 

Incredibly, despite the shenanigans of the governor, the state superintendent, the legislature and a multitude of special interests, Oklahoma teachers are performing well.  Despite low pay, low classroom funding, high statistics of poverty, divorce and domestic abuse, Oklahoma is being well served by its educators and test scores are improving.

This week, the Tulsa World reported that Oklahoma student’s 2014 ACT scores exceeded the national average in English and in reading.  Think what Oklahoma could do if it only had a plan and stuck with it.

After all, when bent on self-destruction, having shot oneself in both feet, the next logical step is being hoisted by one’s own petard…and we don’t want to go there.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as a State Representative.  If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Fueling Road Repair

Fueling Road Repair for the Common Good - August 17, 2014

State Representative David Perryman

Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  While Newton was addressing physics, it is difficult to find any action that we take individually or collectively as a society that does not produce some side effect.

For instance, Ozzie Zehner, author of Green Illusions wrote a white paper in 2012 on the unintended consequences of green technologies.  Mr. Zehner outlined how massive amounts of corn used in biofuels caused food shortages and prices to spike in other parts of the world. His paper also illustrated how the manufacture of solar cells may increase health risks to the people who assembled them and that the industry is a leader in the production of greenhouse gases.

Another Zehner example is that organic farmers reduce environmental harms stemming from pesticides and fertilizers however since weed control requires more tilling petroleum use would increase.  Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug has argued that to replace world food demand with 100 organic foods would require three times the amount of land currently in cultivation and consequently endanger rain forests.

While Zehner does not argue against green technology in the eight or nine examples that he gives, he does show that we should approach the issue with our eyes open.

One cause and effect issue that is directly affecting Oklahoma and Oklahomans relates to the potholes in our state.  Because Oklahoma and the other 49 states have a fuel tax that is a flat number of cents per gallon of gasoline, as vehicles become more efficient, fuel tax revenue decreases and thereby decreases the amount of money available for road construction and road repair.

The current system of fuel taxes was first adopted in Oregon in 1919 and within ten years all 48 states had enacted gas taxes to fund road and highway infrastructure. In 1932 the federal government followed the lead and ultimately allowed President Eisenhower’s 1956 Federal-Aid Highway Act to build the new interstate system.

Today, the federal government taxes gasoline at 18.4 cents per gallon and Oklahoma collects the fifth lowest state rate of 17 cents per gallon.  Combined, the local, state and federal tax in Oklahoma is 35.4 cents per gallon, lower than all states except Alaska, Wyoming, New Jersey and South Carolina.

Federal gas tax revenue has fallen from about 47 billion to about 32 billion over the past ten years according to the Pew Analysis of Federal Highway Data adjusted for inflation.  This equates to nearly one-third less federal funding for highways. 

With Americans driving less and operating more fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, it is easy to understand that the revenue stream is disappearing.  While Oklahoma has not adequately invested in mass transit and consequently vehicle counts have not decreased, the miles driven are more fuel efficient.

Oklahoma’s state collections are comparatively low and Oklahoma is so overly dependent on federal funds, it is clear that the condition of the Sooner state’s crumbling roads and bridges are a direct result of the state and federal funding crunch.

To make up for their gap between revenue and expenses, other states are looking at changing the 95 year old model of a flat number of cents per gallon of gasoline.  For instance, Florida, Maryland and Massachusetts have undertaken to begin indexing their fuel tax for inflation.  Virginia is in the process of establishing a percentage tax like a sales tax to replace its old flat fuel tax. 

While the process must be refined to keep from invading privacy concerns, Oregon and California and a number of other states are considering a fuel tax based on the number of miles driven.

Change is always difficult and particularly so when it is the government’s goal to elicit more money from drivers and fuel consumers.

There will be much discussion on which route to take to allow Oklahoma to repair its roads and to construct new ones.  Ideas are abundant….just like potholes.  We need to be just as careful in selecting the right one as we are in avoiding potholes.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as a State Representative.  If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

REAPing What is Sown

REAPing What is Sown for the Common Good - August 10, 2014

State Representative David Perryman

American folk heroes do not come around every day.  The legend of Johnny Appleseed is a favorite and holds special meaning for many of us. Fortunately, for rural America, there is much truth to the stories of the industry of John Chapman, the pioneer nurseryman.

Chapman was born in Massachusetts just a couple of years before the signing of our Declaration of Independence.  After a somewhat nomadic couple of decades, at age 31, John Chapman began working at a nursery in rural Pennsylvania and gathered the skills that allowed him to do his part in fulfilling a vision for the future. What he learned was the art of planting seeds and nurturing seedlings…apple seedlings to be exact.

Elementary school and the literary license of Walt Disney films, has led us to believe that Johnny Appleseed wandered aimlessly through the countryside tossing apple seed hither and fro with abandon.  Factually however, Chapman planted sizeable apple nurseries caring for them to a point, training others to do so in his absence and returning periodically to monitor progress and remedy any problems.

Instead of simply sowing apple seed, John Chapman systematically fostered agri-business in rural America and apprenticed rural residents to help fulfill that goal. As a result, apples were produced and the residents of cities, towns and villages through the upper Eastern states were able to consume the fruit of his labors.  In turn, rural residents were financially able to purchase staples, supplies and goods in those cities, towns and villages.

Likewise, today, a robust RURAL Oklahoma lifestyle and economy is necessary for a robust Oklahoma economy.  In our mobile society, substantial sales tax revenues generated in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and other larger communities can be traced to unincorporated areas and communities with fewer than 7,000 citizens.

The quality of life in those rural areas requires the same types of infrastructure that is constructed and maintained by sales tax dollars in more populated areas.  With rural incomes being spent in cities on food, clothing, supplies and yes, even OKC Thunder basketball games, rural residents subsidize the infrastructure of larger communities and actually shift those funds from the rural communities in which they live.

The recognition that rural Oklahoma subsidizes cities and towns is why I was frustrated by an August 7, 2014 editorial in The Oklahoman.  The editors portrayed funds going to rural communities as “an ever-increasing drain on state finances.” The program targeted is called the Rural Economic Action Program (REAP) which was first appropriated in 1997.

In an effort to provide a funding source that will partially make up for the sales tax “leakage” that flows to cities and other urban areas, the legislature appropriates a tiny fraction of the budget to the REAP program to help rural areas with otherwise unfundable infrastructure needs.  In 2014, the REAP appropriation was about 15/100 of one percent of the legislatively directed appropriations.

With this appropriation, rural fire departments are able to acquire equipment, small towns and rural water districts are able to repair water and sewer lines and install fire hydrants and communities are able to bring sewer lagoons into compliance and resurface roads.  These funds allow deferred maintenance to be performed on rural libraries and other structures.  All of these purposes allow rural residents and businesses to continue to exist in small communities and unincorporated areas across Oklahoma.

The editorial acknowledged that REAP projects may have merit, but should be the responsibility of local governments and not state taxpayers.  What the Oklahoman’s urban leaning editorial board failed to see was that for every dollar spent by rural residents like you and I in the urban areas, four pennies go into the state revenue funds and four or five more pennies go to the urban communities to fund similar urban needs while similar rural needs go lacking, but for funds provided by REAP grants.

According to the analysis of the paper’s editors, for “every dollar spent on REAP is a dollar taken from another need.”  That may be, but that same argument can be used against corporate tax credits, tax cuts and a myriad of urban projects that are slipped into the budget.

REAP funds are administered across rural Oklahoma in a highly competitive and open grant process that is fair and transparent.  Unfortunately, the 2013 appropriation was 20% below the average and in 2014 it was decreased another $700,000 to around 75% of the program’s lifetime average appropriation.

John Chapman saw the wisdom in a vibrant and productive rural America.  The REAP program has consistently helped rural Oklahoma meet the needs of its residents and businesses.  Generations of Americans reaped the benefit of Johnny Appleseed’s vision.  In Oklahoma, REAP exists to benefit ALL Oklahomans.

Thank you for allowing me to serve as a State Representative.  If there is anything that I can do to assist you, please call me at 405-557-7401 or email me at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov. I look forward to hearing from you soon.