Budget

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

Miracle on 23rd Street

Miracle on 23rd Street - December 17, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look No Farther Than Your Own Backyard

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

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boom Goes The Budget

Boom Goes The Budget - November 19, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too Little Too Late?

Too Little Too Late? - November 5, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Let's Really Fix This

Let’s Really Fix This - October 29, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serving Two Masters

Serving Two Masters - October 22, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Session Update - Week Three

Special Session Update – Week Three - October 15, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Session Update - Week Two

Special Session Update – Week Two - October 8, 2017

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Let's Make a Deal

Let’s Make a Deal - May 8, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

“Tell them what they’ve won, Jay,” was the way Monte Hall awarded game show prizes on the Long running game show, Let’s Make a Deal as contestants chose from Door Number One, Door Number Two or Door Number Three.

In less than three weeks, the 2016 legislative session must come to an end and it isn’t pretty. West Texas Intermediate crude is hovering around $42 per barrel and as a result of tax cuts, Oklahoma’s oil and gas gross production tax receipts are even lower than they were in 2001 when the price of oil was less than $27. Today, even if the price of a barrel of oil approached $50, the total gross production tax on that barrel would remain less than $1.

Projections for the Fiscal Year BEGINNING on July 1, 2016, are even more dire. Even though the legislature is dealing with an anticipated $1.3 billion budget gap and legislators MUST approve a budget before the end of this month, as of May 1, there had been no bills presented on the floor of the House of Representatives to address next year’s budget crisis.

One “solution” proposed by the Governor and her Finance Director is to borrow several hundred million dollars to supplement the budget covering ODOT payroll, materials and overhead and then paying the loan out of appropriations over the next several years.

Another of the Governor’s “solutions” is to raise additional tax revenue by “modernizing” our tax code through the elimination of certain sales tax exemptions and increasing the list of goods and services that are subject to sales taxes.

While those “solutions” are crafted for next year’s budget, they will do nothing for the current health care catastrophe facing Oklahoma RIGHT NOW with ambulance services folding, hospitals closing, mental health patients left untreated and 9 out of 10 nursing homes teetering on the edge of shutting their doors.

Which brings us to Doors Numbered One, Two and Three. Behind those doors in no particular order are possibly the only three ways to address Oklahoma’s health care disaster.

One door involves a plan for tens of thousands of working Oklahomans whose employers do not provide health insurance and who cannot afford private coverage on their salary of up to 133% of the poverty level. They would become eligible for SoonerCare Medicaid coverage and thereby decrease the millions of dollars that Oklahoma hospitals annually write off as bad debt of citizens who have no access to health care except the local emergency room.

One door involves a plan to boot more than 170,000 disabled, pregnant women and children from SoonerCare rolls over the next 3 years and require them to secure federally subsidized health insurance through the federal health care exchange.

One door leaves the disabled and pregnant women and children on SoonerCare but accepts federal funding for the expansion of Insure Oklahoma for those tens of thousands of working Oklahomans whose employers do not provide health insurance and cannot afford private coverage on their salary of up to 133% of the poverty level.

One plan is called Medicaid Expansion, one is called Medicaid Rebalancing, and one Expands Insure Oklahoma. All of these plans provide much needed mental health services, will improve health outcomes and will allow hospitals and ambulance services to recover fees for those they treat.

The funding for each of these plans will require an increase in the state’s tobacco tax and consequently will require a 75% vote from both the House and the Senate. There are many arguments on why we should not increase the tobacco tax. A tax increase will place a financial hardship on smokers across the state and will likely cause cigarette smuggling.

However, Oklahoma’s partisan obstinance and dogmatic pursuit of tax cuts has left us with no other options on the table. One thing is clear, health care must be saved and refusing to select a door will be catastrophic and will mean that as many as 4 out of 5 hospitals will not deliver babies and that more than a dozen hospitals will close within one year and that 9 out of 10 nursing homes will be forced to shut down. “Tell them what they’ve won, Jay.”

Questions and comments are welcome. David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

I Love It When a Plan Comes Together

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together - March 6, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

“Ten years ago, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum-security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem…if no one else can help…and if you can find them…maybe you can hire…The A-Team.”

The 1980’s television show, “The A-Team,” featured a team of mercenaries, led by Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith. Finding themselves in impossible situations facing improbable odds and little chance of survival, let alone success, the team, used its collective resilience, adaptability and resourcefulness to always land on their feet with mission accomplished.

“I love it when a plan comes together” was Hannibal’s ready response when everyone, including he himself, knew that his plans “never worked right, they just worked.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to the budget, Oklahoma has no plan whatsoever, and that is not hyperbole. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Oklahoma ranks 50th in the country for budgeting for the future.

Year after year, Oklahoma produces a budget with no budget map to the future and a lack of budget tools.

Seriously, unless you or I had the full purchase price in the bank, the only way that we would purchase a car is if we knew that we could make car payments when they come due. We surely wouldn’t upgrade to a luxury model if we anticipated a drop in income. We would do everything that we could to know in advance whether, in future years, we could afford an automobile of adequate size and reliability, taking into consideration anticipated costs such as maintenance, insurance and efficiency or whether a new child on the horizon might dictate a need for additional seats.

We would not allow old habits or dogmatic theories to dictate what or how much of an item is purchased. We would look for independence and credibility in the experts that we rely upon to make economic decisions.

We would save money back when times are good so that when times are really bad, we have plenty of money to meet our needs. We would routinely scrutinize routine expenses and change our spending habits when we are not getting a good bargain.

But in Oklahoma, that is not what the government does. It doesn’t plan based on need and it limits its ability to save during good times.

Instead, economic policy in the Sooner State is based on just two considerations. First, state revenues are to be used to reward campaign donors. Second, taxes exist to be cut, dogmatically.

Until Oklahoma allows its Rainy Day Fund to grow during good times to a level that it can effectively help the state through down energy cycles of enduring length and honestly scrutinizes the tax breaks and credits that have been handed out as political patronage, we will continue the status quo.

The current Rainy Day Fund cap of 15% of the preceding fiscal year’s General Revenue Fund certification is inadequate.

I had hoped that the Evaluation Committee created by HB 2182, which I co-authored, would have already identified tax credits that needed repealed, but late appointments by the governor and the senate keep the committee’s work from having any impact until mid-2017 at the earliest.

Next year the state will have only $4 to spend for every $5 it had this year. The shortfall is not because of planning. It is because Oklahoma failed to plan. The decline in oil prices may be partly to blame with tax cuts for the oil and gas industry since the mid 2000’s costing the state $350 million, but the real culprit is the incessant and dogmatic drive to cut the state’s income tax from 6.65% to 5% at a cost of over $1 billion per year, without considering needs.

The budget crisis is real and not a television script. George Peppard and Mr. T won’t just drop in and make things “work out.” When legislators don’t have a budget plan, people are hurt and Oklahoma suffers.

Questions and comments are welcome. David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.

Who's In Your Wallet?

Who’s In Your Wallet? - November 29, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

With a $1 Billion state budget gap in the forecast, it would seem that everyone at the Capitol would be focused on avoiding more cuts to mental health funding, roads and bridges, higher education and career tech. One would think that finding some relief for Oklahoma’s woefully underpaid public school teachers would be a high priority.

Unfortunately, the task of getting us out of this mire is in the hands of those who created the mess.  Even more unfortunate is that they are using the same failed roadmap to get us to their version of “prosperity.”

For instance, earlier this year, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) published an article in its Perspective magazine that exclaimed, “Why the Long Faces?” as the consensus of its “brain trust” illustrated that Oklahoma’s budget shortfall presents a “valuable opportunity” to “right-size” (i.e. “cut”) government (and the services that it provides). OCPA’s suggestions ranged from turning government services over to private corporations to downsizing and “phasing out the income tax” and replacing it with…nothing.

The article held Kansas up as a model of fiscal virtue that had recently made deep cuts to its state income tax rates and argued that Oklahoma would do well to emulate. However, the 2015 edition of the Tax Foundation’s “Facts and Figures” shows that Oklahoma’s state and local tax burden was nearly 10% lower than Kansas’ and Kansans paid 24.4% more in state and local taxes, 41% more in gasoline taxes and 126% more in property taxes than Oklahomans.

It is notable that since the date of the OCPA article, Kansas, feeling the negative impact of its income tax cuts, has found it necessary to increase its state sales tax to a rate that is 44.4% higher than Oklahoma’s.

Now, the American Federation for Children (AFC) has issued a press release claiming that 7 out of every 10 Oklahomans want to take public tax dollars and transfer them to private or religious schools.

BEWARE: Even in these dire financial straits, the OCPA, the AFC, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other school voucher proponents (collectively, the “Takers”) are triangulating to get in your wallet again.

Past Taker accomplishments are tax credits, tax deductions and tax free “scholarships” that already divert tax dollars from the general fund to private and religious schools. Last session Takers successfully sponsored a bill allowing the Department of Education to approve charter schools anywhere in the state, even when the local school board objects.

Now, through a series of misleading and ambiguous poll questions, these perennial Takers are laying the groundwork to justify the introduction of legislation shifting millions of dollars from public education to private schools through the use of vouchers and tax funded “educational savings accounts.”  Faulty as the poll is, the state’s anti-public education newspaper is now promoting it. Surprise, Surprise. Who’s in your wallet?

December 11 is the last day to request legislation and I welcome your comments at 1-800-522-8502 or at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

 

Oklahoma's Budget Plan: Rob Peter to Pay Paul

Oklahoma’s Budget Plan: Rob Peter to pay Paul - November 8, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

                Borrowing lyrics from Hee Haw, the country music television variety show, a mournful tune wafts through the air between 2300 N. Lincoln Boulevard and the Governor’s Mansion next door.

“Gloom, Despair and Agony on me.”

“Deep, Dark Depression, Excessive Misery.”

“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

“Gloom, Despair and Agony on me.”

                To be fair, the current price of oil is deepening Oklahoma’s budget crisis, but the Price Quotes for West Texas Intermediate Crude is not the only reason that the governor and legislative leaders are howling at the moon.

When oil was more than $100 a barrel, other states used the windfall to shore up education, repair roads and bridges and replace aging infrastructure. Instead, Oklahoma let its highways and county roads continue to deteriorate and gave a huge tax cut to oil and gas producers.

When Oklahoma’s unemployment rate was lower than a snake’s belly and employers and employees were in “high cotton,” other states took steps to improve health care and address mental illness. Instead, Oklahoma cut benefits to injured workers and gave income tax cuts to the wealthy.

When Oklahoma’s economy was ginning right along instead of planning for the future, we pandered to campaign contributors and gave away hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax credits and rebates.

A little planning could have avoided much of the current crisis. One should not have to dust off his copy of Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” to predict that the proverbial “invisible hand” of supply and demand would correct the market. Consequently, OPEC and domestic oversupply has suppressed prices, profitability and tax revenue. Market forces have resulted in a 12 year low of active rigs with only 83 today compared to 208 during the first week of November 2014.

Economic indicators and indexes published by Creighton University and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia show us that for the first time since the Great Recession of 2008-2010, Oklahoma’s monthly receipts have dropped for six straight months when compared to the prior year.

The $590 Million budget hole from last year will likely grow to somewhere around $1 Billion this year since the budget projections were based on $57.55 per barrel oil and the current price is hovering at just over $45. A difference of more than 20% will result in unprecedented budget cuts so that Peter can be robbed to pay Paul.

According to the Creighton study, Oklahoma’s Business Conditions Index fell for the sixth straight month to a weak 40.1, signaling that state businesses will likely eliminate thousands more jobs between now and March 2016. State Treasurer Ken Miller was aware of losses of sales tax revenue and that Oklahoma had just lost nearly 6 percent of its manufacturing jobs when he said, “Revenue growth from the past year has been erased and indications are the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.”

It doesn’t take a quartet from Hee Haw to tell us  “It’s not as bad as we thought. It’s worse.”

Call or email with questions or comments at 800-522-8502 or 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Defending the People's Law

Defending the People’s Law For the Common Good - August 11, 2013

State Representative David Perryman

Personal integrity is the benchmark of a commitment made and delivered.  Such integrity is the same today as it was on an August day nearly 2,500 years ago. The location is Thermopylae, the “hot gates”, a narrow pass between the Aegean Sea and central Greece.  The year is 480 B.C. and a young King of Sparta, Leonidas I, saw the urgent need to protect his homeland against the onslaught of the Persian Army.

The heroic commitment of Leonidas is legendary.  With 300 men, he held off for ten grueling days a Persian military advance of a million men.  As a King, he was committed to the protection of the people.  As a realist, he knew that this battle would be lost.  As a visionary, he understood that his heroism and the bravery of his men would resonate with the residents of Sparta and scores of other Greek city-states, spurring them on to renewed patriotism and unity.

Unfortunately, the multitude of Persian archers darkened the sky with flying arrows and the Persians under the General Xerxes and his “10,000 Immortals” defeated the 300 brave Spartans.  Before the battle had ended on August 14, King Leonidas had sent a message to his subjects: “Go and Tell the Spartans that we lie here in obedience to their laws”.  The message when received ignited a vibrant and renewed spirit among the Greeks. 

By sending this message to the citizens of Sparta and the other Greek city-states, Leonidas was informing the people of Greece that defending the law and protecting the rule of law was a quest that transcended self-interest.

I was reminded of the virtues of such personal integrity recently when visiting the Peace Officers’ Memorial at the State Capitol Building in Sacramento, California.  Just down the hall from the chambers of the California House of Assemblymen is a book that contains the names of every California peace officer who has lost their life in the line of duty, those whose lives have been sacrificed “in obedience” to the laws of the people.

The book contains many blank pages that will one day be filled.

I am reminded of the Oklahoma peace officers who have fallen “in obedience” to our laws while protecting the rule of law in our state.  I am reminded that the shield shaped badge that the Oklahoma peace officer wears protects us just like the shield of the Spartans protected the Greeks.  To defend the peoples’ law requires a commitment that all expect, but only a few will make.

As a state representative, the responsibility of passing legislation worthy of protection is sobering.  The legislative process is neither a game nor folly.  The men and women of Oklahoma who wear a badge and enforce our laws deserve much more than our accolades. 

Whether they are members of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, a state agency, a county sheriff’s department or a municipal police department, they deserve our respect, our constant and continuing thanks and compensation in such an amount that they will be able to provide for their spouse and children without having to rely on food stamps, government programs or private charity.

These men and women and their families face the unthinkable every single time they go to work.  We do not need another study to know that their pay is well below private sector pay and well below the pay scale in surrounding states.  They deserve more than the empty promises and petty politics received by the OHP during the last legislative session.

Not only do our law enforcement officers share the integrity of Leonidas, they also share his understanding of the reality of their situation. Leonidas’ wife constantly worried about the day that he would meet death while protecting the people of Sparta.  When she wondered aloud about what she would do when he failed to return, Leonidas replied "marry a good man who will treat you well, bear him children, and live a good life."

That “wing and a prayer” is little consolation for the service and sacrifice of Oklahoma lawmen who place obedience to the law above their self-interest.

I appreciate the opportunity to serve in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.  I look forward to hearing from you at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov or 405-557-7401.