Weekly Column

One Dip or Two

One Dip or Two - June 17, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

A venture into Haskell Head’s Pharmacy in the early 1960’s was an amazing experience. Not only did the small storefront have that feeling that it had been there since statehood collecting and retaining all sorts of unique merchandise, it was a dimly lit cavern of curiosity. Items hung from the walls and ceiling and spilled off of tables and shelves into narrow aisles that at one time may have been organized.

Each item had a use, everything was for sale and Mr. Head was one of the kindest and most essential men that I had ever met. Doctors whose offices were often on the second floor of a bank building as well as their patients trusted him to serve up, “just what the doctor ordered” whether it be elixirs, syrups, compounded creams or some other concoction.

Aside from the area where pharmaceuticals were dispensed, the brightest area in the building was the soda fountain where cherry phosphates, crème sodas and strawberry shake were on tap. The most frequent delicacy was a simple hand dipped ice cream cone served up after the obligatory question, “one dip or two?” was followed by “one, please.”

Today, in the arena of private school financing, no one stops at one dip.

For years, wealthy Oklahomans have sought to direct public education tax dollars toward their children’s private school tuition. For years, Oklahoma protected public education tax dollars for public schools. Over the past decade however private school patrons have funded campaigns and legislators who are willing to provide a path toward using tax dollars for private school tuition have been elected.

Thanks to a 2011 law called “Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships” launched in 2013, millions of tax dollars are being redirected to fund the private education of children of parents earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. In its inaugural year, 38 students participated. This past school year that number rose to 2,209 and the income cap has literally been removed.

The double dipping comes in when an individual or corporation donates money to a non-profit Scholarship Granting Organization or SGO. Not only does the donation allow the donor to claim a charitable contribution, they also receive a tax credit of 50% of the amount of the donation. So while the charitable contribution reduces taxable income, the tax credit reduces the amount of income tax due dollar for dollar.

Oklahoma’s anti-public school legislature has made additional tweaks to the law that further exacerbates the misdirection of education funding. The amount of tax credits that could be claimed increased in 2015. Assuming a taxpayer made a $200,000 donation to an SGO, they would receive a tax credit of $100,000 unless they promised to make the same donation for three consecutive years in which case they would receive a $150,000 tax credit for year one and $100,000 in each of years two and three.

Originally, parents could not earn more than $136,530 per year but legislators carved out an exception that disregarded the income eligibility requirements for students living in a public school district designated as “in need of improvement.” Consequently, private school families could financially benefit even when education funding cuts are the cause of a public school’s problems and private school scholarships undermine public education funding.

Perhaps the most egregious component of the plan harming public education is the provision that, “Once a student has received a scholarship, that student and his or her siblings remain eligible until high school graduation.” So regardless of the future performance of the public school or whether private school parents earn millions of dollars per year, public tax dollar financed scholarships will continue to be channeled into the pockets of private school families.

Mr. Head had no elixir for this problem. It can only be solved with an informed and engaged electorate.

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

Home Grown Oligarchy

Home Grown Oligarchy - April 10, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Oligarchy is one of those words that Mr. Michaels taught us in our junior high government class. He told us that is was a government system where power is controlled by a small, often wealthy, percentage of a country’s population. I assumed from his explanation that oligarchies exist in those countries where citizens are not allowed to vote in their best interest.

Kimberly Amadeo, a respected writer, economist and money manager who also frequently appears on the Fox network made a number of poignant remarks about oligarchies earlier this year in an article that appeared in the online magazine, “The Balance.”

Ms. Amadeo pointed out that an oligarchy can occur in any political system. In a democracy, oligarchs are not elected by the people. Instead, they use their relationships and money to influence elected officials. As a result, the advantages gained by oligarchs/elites gives them more influence. Left unchecked the competitive advantages gained foster an organized minority as opposed to an unorganized majority and any system of government will eventually become an oligarchy.

The article says that the benefit of an oligarchy is that the majority of people are allowed to focus on their careers and their hobbies and their family and not be bothered with the issues that concern society as a whole.

However, according to the author, oligarchies increase income inequality because while the majority of people are working to support their families, oligarchs siphon a nation’s wealth into their pockets leaving less for everyone else. As oligarchs gain power, they seek to keep it.

Oligarchies can form when the elite class takes action to exert greater influence over things like tax policy. That action is normally in the form of financial influence to further the goal of the elite without regard to the harm that it may do to society. Slashing tax rates on high income earners or on a specific industry would be an example of this or another example is to lower labor costs by suppressing wages or weakening organized labor.

 They also form when elected leaders are weak or are weakened by policies that benefit the elite. For instance, legislation such as term limits would arguably weaken the legislature and shift power to the elite and their lobbyists.

Finally, oligarchies also arise in democracies where the people are uninformed or misinformed. Elites that control wealth, media and information have the power to manipulate perception. For instance, in Oklahoma, a group called RIED claims to promote economic growth. However, RIED’s Board of Directors is primarily comprised of the same group of business executives who promoted the Step Up Oklahoma Plan (HB1033xx) last fall.

Many, including myself saw the Step Up Plan as regressive and a way to cap oil and gas gross production tax at the nation’s lowest rate and further shift the tax burden from high wage earners to working Oklahomans. It made sense because many of the Step Up Plan promoters had spent the better part of the last quarter century undermining public education in Oklahoma.

So, it came as no surprise when RIED’s annual legislative grade card placed undue weight on the Step Up Plan vote and totally disregarded the passage of HB1010xx, which was the bill that included a greater increase on oil and gas production taxes and a 50% smaller increase in regressive gasoline taxes and a 1/3 smaller tax on cigarettes.

The goal and effect of RIED was to negatively impact legislators who voted NO on the Step Up Plan and YES on the plan that actually put more money into teacher pay, increased funding for textbooks, support personnel and other educational expenses.

It is no surprise that most Americans feel disenfranchised and helpless in influencing their society. Gallup reports that 76% feel dissatisfied with the way things are going right now. Sixty-seven percent are dissatisfied with income distribution and 43% fee that there is not much opportunity to get ahead.

We shouldn’t be surprised that populist protest groups such as the Tea Party have formed. We all share much of the same frustration. The sooner we unite our efforts toward attaining goals that benefit all Americans the sooner we will overcome the division and discord of the oligarchical society that we have become.

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

Feeling Pain in Too Many Places

Feeling Pain in Too Many Places - June 3, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

For those of us who didn’t end up pursuing a career in healthcare or any science related occupation for that matter, our high school physics and biology classes serves to provide us with our basic understanding of how the nature works. Words and phrases like “the coefficient of friction,” “photosynthesis,” “catalyst,” and “stimuli” were all given meaning in science class decades ago.

One of the postulates discussed in a class was that human beings can sense pain from only one body part at a time. We did simple experiments like biting our lips or pinching our legs and the theory did appear to have some merit.

Apparently an episode of House M.D. also explored that idea. The concept has been called “Ukhtomsky’s Doctrine of the Dominant” named after a Russian physiologist in the early 1900’s. Strangely, aside from a pre-Bolshevik era Russian and the fictional Dr. Gregory House, there is very little research about the subject.

It could be that the only practical value of the concept is to explain why some patients do not feel the sensation of say, a bone that was broken during an accident, until the pain of say, a laceration received in the same accident is treated and that pain begins to subside.

Feeling pain in more than one place could also be applied to Oklahoma and its current state of affairs. For instance, during the past legislative session it seemed that all eyes were on the education budget. After all, a decade of cuts to Oklahoma public education had totaled 26.9% and the future of our state’s children was being threatened. Parents, students and concerned citizens from across the state stood firmly with teachers who raised awareness about ten years of legislative neglect and as a result, steps were initiated to at least stop the bleeding.

Frustratingly, without a plan, there is no legislative leadership. Putting out fires is no way to plan for the future. As steps are taken to address K-12 educational needs, other areas of neglect rise to the top. Oklahomans must be pro-active in determining what they want the future of the state to look like.

We say that we want businesses to bring good jobs to our state, but without exception those businesses say they want an educated and healthy work force.

While we have historically funded our Career Tech system, we have fallen woefully short in funding our colleges and universities. Our future is not bright when students are dissuaded from higher education by the bleak outlook of a mountain of college debt.

We say that we want all Oklahomans to have access to quality healthcare, but we suppress health outcomes by refusing to address high uninsured rates and uncompensated care. Consequently, hospitals and ambulance services that must provide care without regard to ability to pay are closing or cutting back on services.

Our tax dollars go to Washington but we refuse to consider allowing working Oklahomans whose employers do not provide health insurance to have a path toward wellness. More than 65% of the other states accept federal funds and are experiencing better outcomes and a stronger medical community.

We shake our heads at the violence in our state and don’t even consider that with Medicaid expansion comes health care that provides, among other things, treatment for mental illnesses that are especially critical in uninsured populations.

Our state’s priorities are reflected in how state funds are spent. I want my children and grandchildren to prosper in Oklahoma. That will only happen if we thoughtfully examine our state’s shortcomings and systematically address its needs. The pain of failing to fund education and health care is readily apparent. A good first step is to treat the problem and eliminate the pain for generations to come.  

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

Congress Shall Make No Law....

Congress Shall Make No Law… - May 27, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Of the dozen or so newspapers and magazines that my parents subscribed to, my favorite was The Saturday Evening Post. The Post’s contained short stories and a few current events, but its main attraction to me was the artwork and most influential was the art of Norman Rockwell.

Hanging today on the wall in my law office is a series of Rockwell prints aptly named The Four Freedoms. The paintings are the artist’s interpretation of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.

Rockwell’s Four Freedoms was painted in 1943 during the height of World War II and gave the American people exactly what they needed during a period when doubt could have easily given way to fear. The freedoms illustrated by one of our country’s most beloved artists remind us of the freedoms that we are guaranteed by our Constitutional Bill of Rights.

The very first Amendment to our Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom to Assemble, and Freedom to Petition are rights that Congress may not take away.

If these freedoms are truly inalienable, then why is the stage being set to abridge and curtail one of the most important freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution?

In Oklahoma, we take agricultural trade very seriously and we know the economic impact of losing a market. So when the current administration began talking about tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, farmers and ranchers held their breath. We know that American agricultural producers hold the number one slot in China’s agricultural imports, including soybeans, oilseeds, cotton, meats, cereal grains and hay and forage products, totaling more than $94 Billion per year.

When China announced that it would place tariffs on 128 products, 94 of which were agricultural in nature, farm groups responded by asking the administration to “consider the impact.”

 But it didn’t stop there. Another casualty in the tariff war is newsprint. One small paper manufacturer in Washington state employing only 300 people and owned by a New York –based hedge fund investment group had convinced the current presidential administration to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint.

Those tariffs now total nearly 32%, and newspapers, directory publishers, book companies and printers of advertising circulars are facing catastrophic circumstances. Perhaps hardest hit are newspapers that are already experiencing industry wide changes in the technology of news distribution.

While larger metropolitan newspapers may well feel the pinch, they are already migrating to electronic distribution and it is likely that smaller daily and weekly papers across the country will find it difficult to pass along the paper price increases to customers. Those smaller publications may ultimately cut print production quantities, shift to smaller page counts and in some cases shut down and lay off workers.

More than 600,000 American jobs in the print media and commercial printing industry are dependent upon Canadian paper.

In an age when the reliability of news gathered from the internet is suspect, there is nothing more reliable than those local and regional papers that have familiar faces that are active participants in your community.

Freedom of the Press is not just an ideal. It is essential to informed citizens and informed voters. While a Free Press is guaranteed by our Constitution, tariffs and other artificial economic factors that are imposed without “considering the impact” may well destroy one of our country’s benchmark freedoms.

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

See Spot Run

See Spot Run - May 20, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Being born a “Baby Boomer” generally means that my primary school experience was filled with Dick and Jane books. It also means that in the absence kindergarten classes, when a little boy or girl turned six years old, they arrived at school in first grade, ready or not.

Ms. Smith taught first grade and did her very best to transform us into readers. Even though I was unaware that the background or life experiences of any of my classmates differed from mine, what I learned that and ensuing years was that there was much diversity in our home lives. Some were from broken homes. Some didn’t have a bookshelf full of favorite books in the corner of their living room. Some couldn’t describe the place they lived as safe and comfortable.

Not long ago I came across a white paper from the Center for Public Education that illustrated why third grade is such a pivotal year for mastering literacy. The bottom line was that struggling third grade readers rarely catch up with their peers academically and are four times more likely to drop out of high school, lowering their earning power as adults and possibly costing society in welfare and other supports. I will add that some of those supports can be the cost of incarceration.

The report listed a number of factors that directly impact the underlying reasons for struggling readers. Those were obvious things like the quality and quantity of verbal parental interaction with children. The study also showed that while children from higher income homes have often been exposed to upwards of 11 million words by age 3, children from low income homes may be fortunate to hear only 3 million.

Another closely related factor was the “anywhere learning concept” that explored the positive impact of parents exposing their children to libraries, museums, recreational facilities and other community-based organizations that promote learning and development.

The report found that sometimes the absence of the foregoing factors can be partially remediated by early learning through the funding of Pre-K opportunities that help children perform better in Kindergarten.

Strikingly, it appears that one in ten Kindergarten and First Grade Students miss nearly a month of school each year, detrimentally impacting a teacher’s ability to teach. Other deterrents involve a trend toward de-emphasizing reading instruction as the subject of professional development and also the current frequency by which non-certified teachers are introduced into the classroom.

It was no surprise that in 1997, the Oklahoma legislature adopted the Reading Sufficiency Act to promote literacy by the third grade. In 2012, during Janet Baresi tenure as State Superintendent of Schools, the legislature adopted a stringent rule mandating the grade retention of any third grader that failed a statewide reading test.

In 2014, the legislature passed HB 2625, which amended the Act to allow a “probationary promotion” for third graders who fail the standardized test, if recommended by a team of parents and educators. Governor Fallin vetoed HB 2625 and the legislature successfully overrode the Governor’s veto.

Last month, Governor Fallin vetoed another change to the Reading Sufficiency Act that had been supported by Joy Hofmeister, current State Superintendent.  SB 1190 would have eliminated the standardized test. The basis for Hofmeister’s support was that the state pays more than $17 Million per year in testing costs and that she believes that Oklahoma could spend those funds more wisely on a comprehensive strategy of intensive remediation to reduce the number of struggling readers.

The Governor argues that if a child has not established basic reading skills by the end of third grade, it seems logical to hold them back.

Perhaps, however, most studies, including Harvard’s Martin West, that students who are held back face lower achievement and worse social-emotional outcomes than similar students who are promoted, and they are more likely to drop out of school.

In any event, the veto has become final and the debate is one for another legislative session.

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

Oklahoma's Ethical Hiatus

Oklahoma’s Ethical Hiatus - May 13, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

In the 1960’s sitcom “Green Acres”, Sam Drucker’s General Store served as the social and commercial center of Hooterville and like most general stores across rural Americana in the first half of the last century it sold groceries, hardware, dry goods, household items and feed for livestock and chickens. At Drucker’s, patrons found a place to come in and visit, play checkers or rant and rave about community issues.

On election day, the store served as the polling place and year round, the store housed the Hooterville Post Office, operated by…, you guessed it, Postmaster Sam Drucker.

In addition to being the town merchant and postmaster, Sam Drucker served as Hooterville’s Constable, Justice of the Peace, Superintendent of Schools and Banker all the while operating (as editor, publisher and sole reporter) the Hooterville World-Guardian, Hooterville’s weekly newspaper.

Sam Drucker wore many hats….literally, because he took great pride in pulling out from under the counter whatever type of hat he needed to clearly distinguish the type of work that he was doing at any given time.

 While most Hooterville residents appreciated the many services that Sam Drucker provided, periodically issues did arise. When faced with a violation of a traffic law or building code, frustration arose when the violator learned that the Constable who issued the citation would simply “change hats” to serve as the Justice of the Peace and determine guilt or innocence. The conflict of interest became patently obvious when a portion of the fine went into the pocket of the J.P.

Surprisingly, it was not until the 1980’s that appellate courts in Oklahoma ruled that a municipal judge who determines guilt and innocence and sets the amount of the fine should be barred from receiving a salary based on the amount of the fines collected.

However, after the 1992 passage of State Question 640 which established the 75% threshold for the legislature to raise taxes, the legislature delved into the same type of practice. According to a 2015 joint report by KGOU and Oklahoma Watch, during the two decades after the passage of State Question 640, the Oklahoma legislature forced the court system as well as a number of various regulatory agencies to exist using the fines and fees that the agency collects.

As a result fines and fees skyrocketed. According to a District Judge quoted in the article, the legislature’s unwillingness to increase taxes resulted in the funding of Oklahoma Courts to go from more than half in appropriations to just over 10% with fines and fees making up the other 90%.

One area of similar concern involves the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Since its formation in 1990, the Ethics Commission has attempted to fulfill its Constitutional mandate of collecting and making available to the public, information about campaign contributions and generally promoting transparency in government. This session, the Commission drew the ire of certain influential members of the State Legislature.

Certain legislators did not care for the public to have ready access to information about gifts, meals and gratuity received by elected officials, but when the Commission adopted a rule to bar legislators from the frequent practice of accepting financially lucrative jobs as lobbyists for two years after leaving office the legislature used its purse strings to retaliate.

In response, the legislature gutted the rule and made a legislative appropriation to the Ethics Commission of exactly ZERO. It appears that there are only two possible results. Either the Commission will not be able to effectively function in its duty to regulate lawmakers and the money that lobbyists shovel toward them OR the Oklahoma Ethics Commission will sue the legislature for failing to properly fund the agency.

The theme song of the sitcom was “Green Acres is the place to be. Farm Living is the life for me. Land spreadin’ out so far and wide. Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside.”  The legislature’s defunding of the Ethics Commission will make it impossible for citizens to know how much “green” legislators receive from those who seek access and favors.

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

Thinking This Through

Thinking This Through - May 6, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

My parents used Dad’s World War 2, V.A. loan eligibility to purchase 80 acres in the early 1960’s. The north 40 was about half tillable land and half hay meadow. The rest of the place was just pasture and included an old “double-barrel shotgun” style house, so named because theoretically if the doors were opened, a shotgun blast fired into the house from the front would fly cleanly to the other end and out at the back.

One of the first things that dad did on that old house was to install indoor plumbing and a septic tank. The prior owners had abandoned three pieces of old steel wheeled farm equipment of the type that were designed to carry the operator and pulled by a team of mules or horses.

The metal seats and levers that raised and lowered the plows and planter mechanisms were attractive to kids and consequently, we climbed all over the implements as they sat in the pasture. It didn’t take long to realize with the help of a couple of cousins, we could use the plow to effectively destroy red ant hills.

We took turns riding while two or three of us would pull and maneuver the plow by the cedar pole that served as the tongue. With the correct aim and speed and the accuracy of a bombardier, the rider would drop the plow blade at just the right time to split the ant hill wide open. It was great fun for nine and ten year old boys, seven miles from the nearest town.

A few years later, with no adult supervision, we decided to move the old single bottom plow to another farm that my parents had purchased. A cousin who had become sufficiently proficient (by 1960’s standards) to drive got behind the wheel of our grandad’s old Chevy pickup. My younger brother’s job was to ride shotgun and serve as my spotter.

After wrapping the chain around the cedar tongue and hooking one end to the bumper and the other end to the plow, everyone assumed their positions and I climbed astride the metal seat to begin the four mile trek in the direction of our destination.

                A low gear journey soon picked up speed to the point that about a half mile into the 35 mph trip I was bouncing uncontrollably out of the seat as the plow swerved from side to side in the wake of the pickup. All in the same instant I realized that one, there was a great chance that something bad was going to happen; two, I was unable to draw the attention of my “spotter” and three, things had spiraled wildly out of control.

Then as quickly as I could yell “STOP,” the pole snapped, the broken stub dropped to the gravel road, the spotter observed that the success of the trip was in peril and the driver slammed on the brakes catapulting me on my back into the bed of the pickup followed closely by the plow with all of its rusty levers, rods and protruding bolts headed directly toward me.

Fortunately the chain tightened and the sides of the pickup bed kept me from becoming a human pin cushion. Crawling out from under the inverted implement, I realized that we had not thought the situation through thoroughly.

Today, as an Oklahoma citizen who has been given the opportunity to serve as a legislator, I see decisions in state government that are not thought through thoroughly. I see education funding cuts resulting in an increased prison population.

I see mental health funding cuts resulting in an increase in suicide rates. I see DHS funding cuts resulting in marginalized children and adults being left without services.

I see Oklahoma’s top state income tax rate slashed by almost 25% resulting in more than $1 billion per year in state revenue. I see Oklahoma corporate subsidies and corporate tax breaks costing nearly $800 million per year in state revenue. I see a state whose ability to serve its citizens is paralyzed.

If only the legislature had thought the situation through thoroughly.

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

Chopping Cherry Trees

Chopping Cherry Trees - April 29, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

One of the most iconic 20th century American paintings shows a man and woman standing in front of a farmhouse. The man is dressed in bib overalls and a jacket and holds a pitchfork. The woman wears a black dress and cameo with an apron. Yes, the painting is artist Grant Wood’s 1930 work, “American Gothic.”

The home that inspired Wood and gave the painting its name was constructed in 1882 in Eldon, Iowa, in what is known as the Carpenter Gothic style, with a distinctive upper window in the shape of a pointed arch. The man and woman that Grant Wood turned into two of the most recognizable painted subjects in American art were not farmers. In fact, they were the artist’s dentist and sister.

A less recognizable work of art by Grant Wood is a 1939 piece featuring a 6 year old George Washington, a cherry tree and a hatchet. The work is named “Parson Weems’ Fable” and is an artistic interpretation of the legendary fable authored by Mason Locke Weems in his 1806 book, “The Life of Washington the Great.” Mr. Wood resurrected the Weems fable at a time when fascism was on the rise in Europe and there were fascist tendencies in the United States.

Wood chose this moralizing tale to encourage patriotism and remind Americans that from its beginnings, our system of government depended upon truth and integrity. The depiction shows the encounter wherein Augustine Washington, asked his son, “George, do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden?” and the response by the future Father of Our Country, “I can’t tell a lie, Pa; you know I can’t tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet.”

It is from those beginnings involving leaders of our great nation that our current state of affairs has grown. While neither George Washington nor Abraham Lincoln were saints, they were through American tradition and folklore elevated to a point of honor and truthfulness with all other presidents holding some lesser position on the continuum of integrity.

Today, politicians at every level are the brunt of jokes and non-stop suspicion. While the acts of many elected officials place others of us in a bad light, there is still plenty of blame to go around and not all of it falls at the feet of politicians.

Lobbyists and Associations and yes, even citizens, often demand legislation that is self-serving yet detrimental to the bulk of our citizens. There are no-tax pledges and tax pledges and private education pledges and industry pledges and a plethora of demands made by people and organizations that want to influence legislation to give themselves or their corporation a leg up or greater profitability.

Legislators who blindly succumb to such promises, pledges and commitments without taking the time to review how an actual bill impacts their ENTIRE constituency fail in the very oath that they take when they assume office.

Likewise, attaining the integrity of George Washington or Honest Abe is impossible when politicians vote in favor of high wage earner income tax cuts and cuts in the Gross Production Tax to the tune of more than $2 Billion per year, destroying the ability of our state to educate our children, repair our roads, treat the mentally ill and help veterans and developmentally disabled Oklahoma adults survive and then respond by shifting the tax burden from corporations and the wealthy to working Oklahomans and the poor.

Oklahoma is at a crossroads. We don’t have a George Washington but we do have men and women whose honesty and integrity requires that Oklahoma’s ability to meet the needs of its citizens be restored so that our children can afford to go to college, rural Oklahomans can have access to health care and senior citizen can participate in nutrition programs.

If you have any questions or comments, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Literacy and Incarceration

Literacy and Incarceration - April 22, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Literacy is defined as “understanding, evaluating, using and engaging with written text to participate in society, to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”

It has been said that prison planners use third grade reading scores to predict the number of prison beds they’ll need fifteen years in the future. I have been unable to verify whether that is a fact or an urban legend.

However, whether there is a link between literacy and future incarceration does need to be examined. Mark Twain didn’t have the internet to use to research this matter like we do today, but he did not hesitate to emphasize the connection when he 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.”

The wisdom of Twain may not have been supported by footnotes but it surely could be today. A study published on October 7 2013, by ReadingPartners.org found that it is true that a student not reading at his or her grade level by the end of the third grade is four times less likely to graduate high school on time – six times less likely for students from low income families.

Also, according to a 2009 study by researchers at Northeastern University, high school dropouts are 63 times more likely to be incarcerated than college graduates. Donald Hernandez reported in Double Jeopardy that “while those with the lowest reading scores account for only a third of students, this group accounts for more than 63% of all children who do not graduate.

Much has been said about teacher pay but while teacher pay is important for the recruitment and retention of proficient and qualified teachers, it may not be the number one factor in determining literacy. According to a Literacy Mid-South article dated March 16, 2016, there are a number of factors that contribute to low literacy rates. Among them are school readiness in terms of health, language development, social-emotional skills and participation in high-quality early care and learning programs.

Other factors include chronic absence and its mitigation; summer learning loss; family oriented stressors such as family mobility, hunger, housing insecurity and toxic stress.

In short, incarceration and literacy are connected, but the damage done by a society that does not value literacy and education goes much deeper than that.

When an individual is unable to understand, evaluate, use or engage with written text to participate in society, doors are summarily shut. Achieving ones goals and developing ones knowledge and potential becomes less of a by-product of literacy and more of a wall that cannot be scaled. When we think about incarceration, we normally think about bars and locks. Walls that hinder personal potential are little better than jails. Oklahomans are better than the policies that are being legislated. A fellow citizen is a terrible thing to waste.

If you have any questions or comments, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Super Heroes

Super Heroes - April 15, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

My grandchildren are really in to superheroes. The interest spills over to the books that they choose and the entertainment that they watch. A simple towel or mask can turn them into a crusader for peace, justice and the American way.

Tucker becomes Captain America. Ben is Batman and in Henry’s mind, he can scale tall buildings and fling webs just like Spiderman unless he wants to be Superman and then he simply leaps over them. When Harper is not Super Girl, she is Rey from Star Wars and Peyton chooses to be Black Widow.

Superheroes are always a part of our inner being and help us develop our imagination.

At the legislature this past few weeks, I have seen another kind of superhero. They came from all over the state, walking, running, driving and riding to the Capitol advocating for the future of our great state.

They are the superheroes whose students often come from unspeakable situations and whose students may arrive at school without having eaten at the lunch room the day before. The children that they teach may not have been able to sleep because their parents argued all night if they were lucky enough to have both parents home.

I saw superheroes who first hand deal with children who are the products of broken homes and superheroes who may deliver the only hug that a child receives.

It is important to take a moment to tell those superheroes thank you. One of the handouts that I received in the last few days contained information about the observations of teachers and how their advocacy experience educated them. That handout made me want to acknowledge my appreciation of them.

Thank you not only for what you did for my children but are doing for my grandchildren and the children and grandchildren of others in public schools all across Oklahoma.

Thank you for taking the time to advocate for a better tomorrow and for becoming more knowledgeable about how our state’s political processes function.

Thank you for seeing the need to network as an electorate with a common vision both within and between districts.

Thank you for caring enough about how state government works to understand that the state of severe dysfunction that exists at the Capitol is very similar to the dysfunction that exists in the homes of many of your students.

Thank you for arming yourselves with passion, knowledge and a determination to continue learning about the process, understanding that knowledge is power and being willing to use that new found power.

Thank you for taking the time to realize that a relatively small number of individuals are disproportionately active in the political process, both in campaign efforts and financial support to candidates.

Thank you for understanding that your numbers provide you with the potential to overcome what you lack in financial clout and that the passion of your number can overcome the rule of the few.

Thank you for being educators. We see your superpower. Thank you for using it for the best interest of Oklahoma’s kids and bringing to life the future that we all want to see.

Thank you for endeavoring, against all odds, to make Oklahoma’s system of public education the best in the country. While you toil as the real superheroes, you help our children foster the imagination and vision that propel them to be tomorrow’s superheroes. Thank you for all that you do.

If you have any questions or comments, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

The People's House

The People’s House - April 8, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

The Oklahoma State Capitol is an impressive building. It was when it was constructed just over a a century ago and it still remains that way.  One of my most prized family heirlooms is an old 3” by 5” negative of a photograph of the Capitol that was taken by my great-grandmother, Ethel Kindblade Horton, around the time that it was completed. The photograph has special significance because of what was going on in the life of Ethel when she took the photograph.

Ethel was born during the War of the Rebellion in Iowa Territory and as a young girl had homesteaded in Kansas Territory with her parents. She was a pioneer school teacher and when land became available in Oklahoma Territory she and her husband settled in what is now western Caddo County in 1901.

Ethel, like her mother before her, preserved her memories for future generations. In their journals our family has been given first-hand, personal accounts of the hardships and trials of living in unsettled territories. Ethel and her husband Ed did their best to provide opportunities for their children. With a strong civic responsibility, they gave endlessly of their time and resources for things like schools and roads and church construction for community betterment.

When their oldest son Harry reached college age, he was sent back to Kansas to obtain a degree. Tragically, an accident claimed the life of Harry while at college. Ethel, like any mother would be, was devastated and it was against this backdrop that Ethel sought the pursuit of art and photography and a myriad of other distractions to occupy her mind. She never healed but she persevered.

Therefore, while the photograph of a new state’s Capitol Building is historic, the fact that its existence was born out of a woman’s anguish, despair and personal loss, makes it more precious to me and my family.

While our lives overlapped by a mere 6 years, Ethel Kindblade Horton’s existence has made a profound impact on mine and I realize how blessed I have been to be of her stock and to share her pride in a remarkable state that is truly of the people.

Ethel was an enlightened pioneer and I whole-heartedly believe that when she photographed this building setting alone on the prairie, she did so with full awareness that it would serve generations of Oklahomans and that it would truly serve as the People’s House well into its second century. I believe that she would have envisioned teachers and parents and students march to this building and crowd into its halls and demand that education be prioritized.

Therefore, educators and friends of education, welcome to the People’s House. It is a house that exists for you and your families and your children and your grandchildren. It is a house that you have been provided by the spirits of our parents and our grandparents and yes, our great-grandparents for the use that you are putting it to today.

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

Trust Us They Said

Trust Us They Said - April 1, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

The truth and nothing but the truth: For about 48 hours last week, it appeared that the Oklahoma legislature had put aside partisan politics and reached a historic bipartisan budget deal that legitimately raised sufficient revenue to fund a decent raise for teachers, include something for school support personnel, state employees and enough dollars to fund about a textbook and a half for Oklahoma students.

In what appeared at the time to be good faith negotiations, Republicans agreed to support an increase in the Oil and Gas Gross Production Tax Rate from 2% to 5% and Democrats agreed to allow a cigarette tax and fuel tax to be assessed so long as the cigarette tax was not more than $1 per pack and the fuel tax did not exceed 3 cents per gallon on gasoline or 6 cents per gallon on diesel.

 While the3% increase in the GPT would not take it to the historic rate of 7%, Democrats viewed the GPT as progressive and agreed to accept it even though it was 2% less than the historic rate that most Oklahomans wanted restored. Democrats also feared that fuel taxes and tobacco taxes would inequitably harm working and low income Oklahomans and sought to have the historic 6% income tax rate on high wage earners restored.

While there was no agreement reached as to income taxes, the trade-off was a promise from the Republicans that the gasoline and cigarette tax increases would be low and the source of the last $50 million in revenue needed to fund raises and textbooks would be a $5 per night hotel tax. The revenue measures were rolled into House Bill 1010xx and when the dust cleared at 8:55 p.m. on Monday evening, March 26, 2018, it appeared that oil and gas lobbyists had taken a back seat to the people of Oklahoma when 100% of the Democratic members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives joined with 70% of the Republican members to tally 78% of the total house and for the first time in state history exceed the constitutionally required 75% threshold for a revenue raising measure.

House Bill 1010xx was then sent to the Senate on what was to be a relatively quick vote before the Bill went to Governor Fallin’s desk. Unfortunately, hours turned to days as the lobbyists from the hotel industry demanded that the hotel tax come out of the bill. Finally, at 7:25 p.m. in the evening on Wednesday, March 28, 2018, the Senate voted on and passed the bill by a bare 36-10 margin, but to meet the demands of the lobbyists, refused to send it to the Governor.

Word came back from across the rotunda that the Senate would hold the bill and would only allow it to be sent to the Governor if the House agreed to repeal the hotel tax provisions. A shell bill, HB 1012xx was hurriedly amended so that it would meet the demands of the Senate. The Bill was called on Thursday and after more than four hours of legal wrangling, suspension of multiple rules and heated debate by the Democrats in the House, the repeal bill passed on a purely partisan vote of 69 Republicans who agreed that a $5 hotel tax was a bridge too far and 26 Democrats opposing the repeal.

At the end of the day what had appeared to be historic votes by the House and the Senate, was really just a new strategy: Put anything in a Bill to convince 75% of the members to vote for it and then before the ink is dry, emasculate it by removing anything from it that wealthy, corporate donors and lobbyists like those representing oil and gas and the hotel industry want stricken. Trust us they said.

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

It's Not About Teacher Pay

It’s Not About Teacher Pay - March 25, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

The Oklahoma legislature is on the precipice of working out a long overdue plan that will increase pay for teachers, but in reality, this plan is not about teacher pay.

It’s about your kids, my kids, your grandchildren and my grandchildren.

This is not about teacher pay. It’s about doing our best to raise generations of children whose potential will be recognized. It’s about fostering a future Oklahoma where our kids and grandkids become educated, enlightened, trained and productive citizens.

This is not about teacher pay. It’s about providing opportunities for children who really would choose a future that includes a career that pays them enough to raise THEIR children rather than a life of incarceration.

This is not about teacher pay. It’s about allowing public schools in our state to produce a high quality workforce that will entice businesses to locate good paying jobs here; jobs that have benefits including health care and retirement plans and the quality of life that those benefits nurture.

This is not about teacher pay. It’s about the fact that during the 2011-2012 school year, the state of Oklahoma granted 30 emergency teaching certificates to individuals who had not satisfied certification requirements. Earlier this year, in an attempt to fill classrooms, the State Board of Education reported that number to have exploded to 1,979 emergency certificates.

While teachers have taken steps to bring Oklahoma’s desperate situation front and center through the “Together We’re Stronger” plan, anyone who takes a serious look at the package quickly realizes that this is not about teacher pay.

This is about an attempt to curb the loss of services that are vital to citizens of Oklahoma. For instance, the cutbacks in DPS driver license testing offices that cause new drivers to wait weeks and sometimes months to be tested and cause hundreds of commercial operator jobs to go unfilled because commercial driver license testing facilities have closed.

This is about an effort to provide the first raise in a decade to teacher aids and low wage school district employees who work day in and day out to protect school children in hundreds of different ways.

This is about funding school book purchases so that 12 year old children do not have to use 12 year old science books in a world where technology changes daily.

This is about putting dollars back into health care so that rural hospitals and ambulance services that affect Oklahomans of all ages will be less likely to be shuttered.

This is about taking the Gross Production Tax on oil and gas back to at least 5% so that the tax burden is more equitable and less burdensome to working and low wage employees.

This is about doing what the Oklahoma legislature needs to do to make Oklahoma better for its citizens and compromising in a bi-partisan manner to put the interest of all Oklahomans above partisan politics.

Teachers affect the life and future of all Oklahomans. That is why this is about much more than teacher pay.

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

Driving By the Rearview Mirror

Driving By the Rearview Mirror - March 18, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

My family included several soldiers and sailors who were members of the “Greatest Generation.” Most have passed on but their stories remain.

For instance, my mother’s first cousin was a nurse who was serving at the Borden Army Hospital in Chickasha. While there she encountered a handsome young Army Private who was recuperating from an injury that he had received. Her name was Dean and his was Clint.

After a few weeks, Clint had recovered sufficiently to go back to active duty and they continued to communicate. When the war ended, they reunited and were married in short order. Clint was eager to provide for his new bride but the hundreds of thousands of returning GI’s made the job market tight and very competitive.

Clint worked odd jobs and was able to supplement the family’s income enough to be able to purchase an old car. Finally, one day, through a friend, Clint received an offer for a full time construction job in the next town about 15 miles away.

Early the next day, Clint got up about 5 a.m. so that he would not be late on the first day of work. He fired up the car, backed out of the drive and discovered to his horror that the transmission was frozen in Reverse. Needless to say, the stakes were too high so Clint drove to work backwards that fifteen miles.

This story has been told many times with slight variation. But the gist is always the same. Clint did what it took to provide for his family time and time again.

The Oklahoma legislature needs to do what it takes to make Oklahoma better for its citizens. While driving backward is not recommended, we could begin by rolling back tax cuts that have been handed out to the oil and gas industry and high wage earners.

Income tax cuts from 7% to 5% for high wage earners over the past ten years have cost the state more than $1.4 Billion per year. That amount alone would more than pay for the teacher pay increase, support personnel pay increase, restoration of classroom funding cuts, state employee pay increase and health care funding called for in the “Together We’re Stronger”  Budget Plan submitted by Oklahoma Teachers.

During that same time, Gross Production Taxes on Oil and Gas Production has been cut from 7% to 2%. Those cuts cost the state$402 Million per year on horizontal wells and $59 Million per year on other wells.  When the depletion allowance that lets oil companies reduce taxable income by up to 22% is added in, the incentives and tax breaks equal around $480 Million per year.

State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, a Republican candidate for Governor said it best, “If citizens of Oklahoma have to pay a 5% income tax rate, why shouldn’t oil companies have to at least pay 5% GPT?

There are other plans that will provide the necessary funding. There are some that will not. The Step Up plan which was engineered to keep Gross Production Tax at an unreasonably low rate was a bad plan. Oil companies and their representatives marketed it as a way to get teachers a $5000 raise. Unfortunately, it took money out of teachers left pocket to put it in their right and totally neglected all the other costs of educating children.

The teachers’ “Together We’re Stronger” plan is a great plan and it needs to be paid for.

We don’t need to follow the Step Up Plan that shifts the tax burden from Oil Companies and those with high income to working Oklahomans.

We need to look in the rearview mirror and return the Gross Production Tax Rate to 7% and the Income Tax Rate on persons earning more than $200,000 per year to at least 5.5%.

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

A Holistic Education

A Holistic Education - March 11, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Holistic Medicine is characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease. Likewise, Holistic Philosophy comprehends that a person’s wholeness can be achieved only by recognizing its parts as intimately interconnected.

Most Oklahoma teachers will tell you that the fact that being 50th in the nation in compensation is only part of the problem. The fact that every day teachers see thousands of Oklahoma students come to school hungry, sick and often dealing with emotionally burdensome home situations make educators in the Sooner State weary and worn and exponentially increases their burden.

Without exception, teachers thrive on seeing students succeed. The reward of watching a child gain knowledge or a new skill makes hours of work worthwhile. Unfortunately, demographics beyond the control of public education inhibit the ability of teachers to reach students and the ability of students to succeed.

Fortunately, the plan unveiled by the teachers last week appears to be designed to address Oklahoma’s demographic deficiencies that have become increasingly harmful over the past ten years.

While detractors have portrayed the demands made in the plan as purely a teacher pay proposal, the teachers also asked for increased pay for non-certified support personnel who serve a vital purpose in public education across Oklahoma. Support Staff who also have served school districts without salary increases for in excess of ten years often fill the gap, help distraught children and remove some of the day to day stress experienced by both teachers and students.

Another overlooked part of the demand made by teachers is that the House leadership that is blocking the COLA Bill that passed out of committee earlier this month allows it to be heard on the floor of the Oklahoma House. Allowing retirees to receive a Cost of Living Adjustment would cost Oklahoma’s budget absolutely nothing and while it would directly benefit thousands of existing retirees, it would also signal current employees that their future may not be quite so bleak.

If the state of Oklahoma truly wants to guarantee a bright future for its citizens, it must support and apply this holistic approach to education.  Paraphrased, Samuel Clemens famously said, “Closing a school requires the construction of a prison.”

The plan of the OEA furthers that concept when it incorporates two additional provisions. First, it requests that the deep cuts to non-payroll educational appropriations be reversed so that, among other things, teachers will not be forced to purchase student supplies out of their already meager pay and assist with the leveraging of federal funding.

Second, the plan calls for an increase in health care funding. While some might not see health care funding as related to educational outcomes, teachers do. On a daily basis, they deal with students who are the children of families who are enduring mental illnesses and physical conditions that are normally both chronic and untreated.

In summary, perhaps no members of our citizenry better understand that a holistic approach to education is essential to educational outcomes. With clarity, the plan proposed by teachers last week incorporates that approach. Oklahoma would be well served if legislators approve the plan in its entirety, so long as the revenue plan to fund the plan is based on a reasonable and adequate increase in the Gross Production Tax on oil and gas and does not place a greater burden of taxation on those who are least able to afford it.

You may contact Rep. David Perryman at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov with questions or comments.

Prarie Tales

Prairie Tales - March 4, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

In a long list of childhood tales, like Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and Snow White, and hundreds more, the endings are always, “happily ever after” predictable. Those stories, affectionately known as Fairy Tales, brighten the lives of children and often serve as a springboard for a lifetime of appreciation of a broad spectrum of the literary arts.

Of course, fairy tales are seldom, if ever, based in reality. The Oklahoma legislature promote as its mantra, its own version of fables that are likewise not based in reality. For today’s purposes, I call them Prairie Tales.

Unfortunately, Prairie Tales are destructive to Oklahoma and the institutions that provide services to Oklahomans. One of the most insidious Prairie Tales is that slashing Gross Production Taxes from 7% to 2% is beneficial to the state. Another is that cutting income taxes on high income earners from 7% to 5% generates jobs and increases revenues for Oklahoma.

The truth of the matter is that those tax cuts have cost the State in excess of $1.5 Billion per year and have been the primary cause of Oklahoma’s annual budget holes that have resulted in draconian cuts to education and other services.

Those “trickle-down” Prairie Tales have landed Oklahoma last in teacher pay and our state has cut K-12 and Higher Education funding deeper than any other state in the country.

In addition to draconian education cuts, Oklahoma has neglected the health and health outcomes of Oklahoma’s citizens and at every turn the Governor and the Oklahoma legislature has resisted policies that would increase the number of insured Oklahomans and has undermined Medicaid and access to private insurance for working Oklahomans whose employers do not provide health coverage. Consequently, rural ambulance services, rural hospitals, rural pharmacies and hundreds of medical related businesses across the state have closed or been rendered unable to provide quality health care coverage from one corner of the state to the other.

Those same decisions have devastated Oklahoma’s network of mental health and substance abuse clinics, counselors and providers. Not only does that underfunding destroy lives, it, when coupled with a lack of funding for education and training, has the direct effect of filling prisons to its current 109% capacity status.

The snowball effect of a decade of these destructive policy decisions has put Oklahoma in a place where no state aspires to be. Oklahoma incarcerates more women than any other state in the country and is number three in the incarceration of its male citizens. Recently, the Director of Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections unveiled the fact that his agency alone needed more than $1.5 Billion to carry out its function.

Today, it appears that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has diverted more than $1 Billion from the Counties’ CIRB funds. Those funds when properly used are for County Roads, Bridges and other infrastructure. When those are not available, County Commissioners are crippled in their efforts to provide citizens with a network of roads that are safe and essential for commerce.

The list doesn’t end there. Underfunding extends to virtually every single state agency. Their respective essential services are left undone because of the legislature’s destructive policies.

Fairy Tales are just that, but Oklahoma’s Prairies Tales damage the quality of life of Oklahoma’s citizens now and potentially for generations and those citizens do not live happily ever after.

You may contact Rep. David Perryman at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

Saving Oklahomans From Themselves

Saving Oklahomans From Themselves - February 25, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

Nearing the end of the 19th century, millions of Americans suffered from economic and social disenfranchisement. The era known as the Gilded Age, had produced an industrialized United States in which a few had accumulated massive amounts of wealth. However, income inequality had relegated most to subsistence wages working for someone else in the factory or on the farm. Wealth influenced and co-opted the government at all levels through a variety of machinations, not the least of which was unregulated campaign contributions.

Out of these dire circumstances and suppressed agricultural prices arose Grange organizations and then as the plight of urban workers worsened, farmers were joined by laborers and a myriad of other Americans who were experiencing first-hand the havoc wreaked upon them by bankers and corporate monopolies and trusts, including railroads and other industrialists.

As a result, in the 1880’s and 1890’s, the People’s Party, commonly referred to as the Populist Party, symbolized hope for an alternative America where economic opportunity was more broadly available to common people.

It was in this setting, in 1907, that Oklahomans were preparing for statehood and the 46th state’s constitution was carefully crafted to preserve and protect the rights of Oklahomans against infringement by those whose wealth and influence could undermine our fierce individualism. The motto chosen by Oklahoma’s founding fathers, Labor Omnia Vincen, or Labor Conquers All Things communicated their mindset.

A basic and primary right reserved to the people by the framers of Oklahoma’s Constitution was the right of Initiative and Referendum. In plain and simple terms, the framers, wary of the likelihood that wealthy campaign contributors and corporate interests would corrupt legislators, reserved unto the people of our state the right to “Initiate” legislation and constitutional amendments and the right to “Refer” legislation to a vote of the people when bad legislation had been enacted by overly influenced legislators.

Both processes involve the right of Petition followed by a vote of the people. These fundamental rights have remained virtually unchanged since the Oklahoma Constitution was approved by the voters on September 17, 1907.

However, this year, an Enid legislator filed HB1603 proposing two major changes to the Initiative and Referendum process, both of which would drastically impede the ability of citizens to file a valid Petition.

First, HB1603 would require that the signatures on a Petition be obtained in equal percentages in each of the 77 counties across Oklahoma. Consequently, the failure to obtain a sufficient number of signatures in a single county would invalidate the Petition and prevent the people of Oklahoma from voting on the issue.

Second, HB1603 would eliminate the requirement that the required signature count be based on a percentage of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. With that language removed, the percentage of signatures required would be based upon the total number of registered voters in Oklahoma. Consequently, HB1603 would increase the number of required signatures on a Petition by 244%.

It is difficult to understand why the author of HB1603 and the six legislators who on February 20, 2018, voted to advance the measure from the Rules Committee to the House Floor and why they would want to infringe upon this fundamental right of the people.

Perhaps they were focused on how utterly unreasonable and dangerous the citizens of Oklahoma can be.  After all, the people of the state had gone crazy in 1914 when they made habitual drunkenness of legislators an impeachable offense and again in 1935 when they had successfully used an Initiative Petition at the height of the depression to appropriate $2.5 Million to the State Board of Public Welfare. Perhaps the most egregious usurping of legislative authority occurred in 1942, when the people of the state of Oklahoma, through Initiative Petition, established the Oklahoma Teacher Retirement System!

It could be that acting at the direction of their campaign contributors, their urgency was to change the rule as soon as possible to thwart any attempt by Oklahomans to Petition to return the Gross Production Tax on Oil and Gas to 7% or restore the top Oklahoma Income Tax rate on high earners to the rate that it was before those irresponsible cuts took $1.5 Billion per year out of the state budget or any number of citizen initiatives designed to solve this state’s budget crisis in the absence of the legislature and the governor to do so.

Otherwise, what were they thinking?

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

Plans, Plans, Everywhere

Plans, Plans, Everywhere - February 18, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

In 2004, the top Oklahoma Individual Income Tax rate was 7%. Historically, the Gross Production Tax Rate for oil and gas severance was also 7%. At those levels, funding was sufficient for school districts to comply with the class size limitations of HB1017. Teachers were not rolling in dough, but were being paid a fair wage for a hard day’s work. Oklahoma children were being taught from up-to-date school books during a full five day school week.

What has occurred in the intervening dozen years has not been good for students of Oklahoma’s public schools… or persons needing hospital care or mental health treatment… or seniors served through nutrition programs… or the developmentally disabled… or thousands of other citizens of our state, young and old who depend upon critical state services in some form or fashion.

Those are the results of a dozen years of cuts to Oklahoma’s gross production tax rate and income tax rates and the annual $1.4 Billion decrease in state revenues. Not only are Oklahomans desperately feeling the impact of losing those revenues, many, like the state representative who authored income tax cuts and is now running for a statewide office, realize that those cuts were mistakes.

Virtually every citizen, every legislator, every lobbyist and every special interest group has an opinion about what course of action should be taken to right our budget.

While pure logic would tend to indicate that the quickest and best solution would be to undo the cuts that put us in these dire straits. However, the oil and gas industry has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the campaign donations to prevent advalorem taxes from being assessed against minerals and to achieve an overall effective mineral/severance oil and gas tax rate of 3.2%.

Those campaign contributions and lobbying efforts have paid off. For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2016, a study funded by the state of Idaho found that an apples to apples comparison showed that while Oklahoma’s effective oil and gas tax rate was 3.2%, Idaho’s was 4%; Utah’s was 6.1%; Texas’ was 8.3%; North Dakota’s was 9.4%; Montana’s was 9.9%; Alaska’s was 12%; Louisiana’s was 13.2%; and Wyoming’s was 13.4%.

Over the past several months, efforts have intensified to stabilize Oklahoma’s budget crisis. In addition to a plan to just reinstate the tax rates on oil and gas companies and high income earners, a number of other plans have been put forth to fill the budget hole and provide recurring revenue so that cuts would not have to be an annually recurring fact.

Unfortunately, when the Democratic president from Missouri, Harry S Truman, said, “It is amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit,” the transverse was true: “NOTHING will get done if all a person cares about is who gets the credit.”

One of the earliest plans was Restore Oklahoma, a Democratic Plan that compromised on a 5% GPT which together with other recurring revenue produced sufficient state revenue to plug the state’s $878 million budget hole, finance a significant teacher pay raise and balance the state’s budget.

A few months later, a bipartisan coalition of Oklahoma groups came together to present the Save Our State Plan with its Blueprint for a Better Budget. It also provided for recurring revenue through a GPT rate of 7% and allowed teachers and state employees to have a raise.

Now, State Auditor Gary Jones has proposed a plan to increase the GPT to 5%, provide a 75 cent cigarette tax and a 3 cent gasoline tax with a 6 cent diesel tax. Auditor Jones plan would also provide a raise to teachers and state employees.

In addition to that Republican plan, there is a plan that has been submitted by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs that I and some of the other Democrats might support with a few tweaks. Another Republican plan that 82.2% of the Democrats supported was HB1054 during the first special session. That bill contained enough revenue for a teacher pay raise and to date is the only plan that has garnered the required 75% or more support from a caucus.

The Speaker of the House controls which proposal is voted on and when that votes takes place. The sooner the better and I firmly believe that it will pass so long as it doesn’t shift the tax burden from oil companies and high income earners to working Oklahomans and those citizens who can least afford 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.

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