Funding Cuts

If You Build It They Will Come

If You Build It They Will Come - May 6, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Kevin Costner was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers at the 2019 Western Heritage Awards last month in Oklahoma City. Mr. Costner has written, directed, produced or starred in a number of great movies that bring our nation’s history into perspective. Some are favorable portrayals and some, like the subjugation of native peoples in “Dances with Wolves,” portray periods of American history that are not so glorious.

Costner’s accepted the honor by opening his heart and speaking directly to Oklahomans about how genetically he was on track to be an Oklahoman and how that commonality has affected his life. His speech was touching and impacted my life. All Oklahomans should allow it to impact theirs. The speech can be accessed online through a number of sources, including YouTube.

Mr. Costner explained that his father was from the panhandle of Oklahoma. Guymon to be exact. His grandfather, Walter, was one of eleven children. He was a farmer/rancher and was 19 when he married his lifelong sweetheart, Tig, who was only 14. Tig told the story about how Walter worked hard. He sold cattle in a banner year and had in storage 50,000 bushels of wheat. At 11 o’clock one morning Walter went to the bank and took every penny with him. His plan was that even if there was not a good crop of wheat or cattle for the next four years, the family would still be taken care of.

Walter knew the banker. Walter knew the teller. There was no wink, no nod, no whisper: “Don’t do it, Walter.” In perhaps the biggest betrayal that his family has ever been subjected to, an hour later, at 12 noon, that bank closed, never to open its doors again. It was the Great Depression. The 50,000 bushels of wheat spoiled waiting for the price to go up. It never did. The Dust Bowl rolled over a generation.

Costner’s family, along with thousands of others, left with whatever they could carry, to carve out a new life. Costner said that “California wasn’t always very welcoming back then and making a go of it wasn’t easy if you were an Okie.”

Unfortunately, a recent article in the Journal Record reported that, “More people have moved out of Oklahoma in recent years than have moved in from other states, an indication of better job prospects in other parts of the country.” The first half of that sentence is a fact and the last half of the sentence only paints half the picture. Low paying jobs ARE a key factor in the outflow of population but other factors include an underfunded educational system; a lack of access to health care, particularly in rural Oklahoma; public policy that is based on trickle-down economics and an attitude among the state legislature that hinders anyone from success through hard work.

As Oklahoma approaches the 2020 Census, we would normally say that the worst thing that could happen to Oklahoma would be for it to lose another congressional district. Unfortunately, that fear has been displaced by a fear that Oklahoma will continue to block federal health care funds, continue to underfund education and continue to favor wealthy campaign contributors while stepping on the backs of Oklahomans who struggle every day to feed, clothe and educate their families.

Kevin Costner doesn’t just do westerns. He also starred in another one of my favorite films, “Field of Dreams”. It is about love, and family connections, risks and rewards, and includes a little bit about baseball. One of the immortal lines from that movie was, “If You Build It, They Will Come.” When will our state realize that if we allow it to be torn down, they will go.

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

Lipstick on a Pig

Lipstick on a Pig - April 21, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

There are a number of phrases and rhetorical statements that may be used to describe the vanity that exists when one wants to exude an image for which there is simply no underlying basis. A British sitcom of the mid 1990’s named “Keeping Up Appearances” captured that idea. In that show, Hyacinth Bucket (which she insisted be pronounced ‘Bouquet’) was a snobbish lower middle class social climber who was forever attempting to prove her social superiority and gain favor with those whom she considered upper class.

A similar concept is captured by the phrase "Keeping up with the Joneses" and the often unsustainable situation where an individual strives at great length to appear to be as affluent as the proverbial well-to-do neighbor.

As a state, Oklahoma is in the midst of a similar personal crisis.

Over the past nine or ten years, the Oklahoma legislature with full cooperation of the state's governors, hundreds of millions of dollars have been cut from the state's K-12 budget. In fact, prior to last year's teacher pay raise, Oklahoma's K-12 education funding had been cut by more than 28%, representing the deepest cuts of any state in the union.

Coupled with those cuts were a number of policy bills that diverted additional dollars from traditional public schools. Those policy bills set up state wide charter schools, education savings accounts, private and charter school scholarships and other voucher like bills that harmed schools across the state by diluting the scarce amount of funds that were not cut.

The natural consequence was that a number of school boards and administrators across the state took immediate steps to make certain that their students remained well educated even in the wake of drastic budget cuts. One of the more common cost saving responses was to change the format of the school week from five days per week to four days per week. Those schools adapted well and recognized fiscal saving while also taking care that academics were not compromised.

Then came the blowback. National media outlets widely publicized Oklahoma's budget cuts and used the four day school week format as clear evidence that Governor Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature did not value education and were satisfied with relegating our state (and its population) to a less than promising future.

So how would Oklahoma's leaders respond?

The answer became abundantly clear when this year's legislation was filed. Instead of properly funding education so that schools could afford to return to five day school weeks or otherwise improve the quality of education available to our youth, legislation filed this year included additional voucher type legislation and tax credits for private school scholarships.

Those bills and others like them further diluted funding that would otherwise be available for public education. Adding insult to injury, in response to bruised pride related to their neglect of education Senate Bill 441 was filed that mandated that all schools return to five day school week.

Some would say that they were just trying to "Keep Up Appearances" but the situation goes much deeper than that. By mandating that schools return to a five day week without properly funding public education and by continuing to dilute the funds available to public education, the legislature that is overly concerned about appearances could be described as putting Lipstick on a Pig to salve their own feelings of inferiority.

Many schools across Oklahoma are seeing the academic, economic, disciplinary and teacher retention benefits of four day school weeks. This is an area where local control and the wisdom of local administrators, parents and school boards should prevail.

This week, SB441 may be heard and possibly sent to the Governor. Proper public school funding and not a thick layer of lipstick should be the legislature's response.

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

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.

For Whom the Bell Tolls

For Whom the Bell Tolls - June 26, 2016

Rep. David Perryman

Some would say that Earnest Hemingway’s 1940 novel deals with the loss of innocence in war. Some would point to the value of human life. Others consider the power of romantic love to bring fulfillment to life even in the direst of circumstances as the book’s main theme.

However, the message that Hemingway may have most wanted to convey is the one reflected in the title he chose for the story. The story centers on an American college instructor whose feeling of brotherhood with an oppressed people was so intense that his fervor led him to Spain to fight Fascism during its civil war.

“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is a phrase taken from a meditation by the 17th Century English poet John Donne that states in substance: No man is an island, complete in oneself. Every man is a piece of the continent, part of the mainland. If a single clod is washed away by the sea, the continent becomes smaller, like it would if a neighbor’s farm or even your own farm were lost. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, so, do not send anyone to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for you.”

Earnest Hemingway’s message of community and fulfillment is a message of hope. John Donne’s message of community and awareness is a message of responsibility and vigilance. Both messages transcend the ages.

Oklahoma’s leaders appear to believe that our state is immune from these messages.

Supplemental payments to the aged, blind and disabled were arbitrarily cut by 25% in fiscal year 2016. Child care credits and essential subsidies for child care facilities were eliminated for new enrollees.

The earned income tax credit amounting to $20 per month for most poor working Oklahomans was eliminated. They pay the highest percentage of their wages on state and local taxes and a higher percentage of their wages on food. They are food insecure and often pay 40% or more of their income housing which is not safe nor secure. The poverty of any man diminishes me.

Those same working Oklahomans have little or no access to health care and no ability to get it. They must choose between losing their job or working sick. Their condition worsens until they must go to an emergency room. Hospitals risk closure because they provide care with no hope of being paid. The poor health of any man diminishes me.

Public education funding is lower than 90% of other states. Teachers are leaving the classroom because they cannot afford to house, feed and clothe their own families. Education suffers and poor Oklahomans no longer have quality educational opportunities to better their lives. Uneducated children diminish me.

As these and other critical resources are taken away from our most impoverished neighbors, the condition of a vast number of Oklahomans diminishes you and me and our state.

No man is an island. Oklahoma, the bell tolls for us.

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

Let Them Eat Cake

Let Them Eat Cake - June 19, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

One of history’s most famous quotes is attributed to Marie-Antoinette, the young bride of French King Louis XVI. Supposedly, in 1789, when she was told that the French people were without bread, the queen who was likely far removed from the reality of food insecurity, responded, “Let them eat cake.”

Whether an innocent or simply detached remark, it is said to have compounded resentment and ultimately hatred toward Marie-Antoinette and her life of privilege. The queen quickly symbolized a decadent monarchy fueling the revolution that would cause her to (literally) lose her head a few years later.

Unfortunately, food insecurity didn’t end in the 18th century. For nearly forty-five years, our federal government acting pursuant to the Older Americans Act has provided funds for senior nutrition programs across the country. With Oklahoma’s required match being only 15 percent, senior nutrition has proven to be a blessing to the health and well-being of older Oklahomans reducing hunger and food insecurity and promoting socialization.

Except for Social Security and Medicare, perhaps no federal program has yielded a more positive impact on senior citizens than Senior Nutrition. In addition to the congregant meals that are served at nutrition sites in nearly every community in Oklahoma, the program involves thousands of caring volunteers who daily deliver meals to shut-ins through the ADvantage program.

In addition to nutrition, those daily visits provide “well checks” on home-bound adults living alone and are instrumental in allowing thousands of Oklahomans to stay in their own home and not move into nursing homes. In addition to the invaluable nutrition and human contact, federal reimbursement rates for homebound deliveries provide more than $1.50 per meal profit to senior nutrition sites defraying the cost of their continued operations.

Much has been said about the harm to education, roads, fire protection, law enforcement and medical care caused by the decisions of state leaders but cuts to ADvantage and senior nutrition programs leave local nutrition centers without funds to leverage federal dollars. Nutrition centers are at risk of closing if they are unable to find other sources of revenue.

This has been a growing problem over the past few years despite USDA statistics showing that already Oklahoma seniors are 16% more likely to be food insecure than the national average and Oklahoma’s nearly 1 in 5 food insecure seniors ranks us as one of the top ten food insecure states according to the American Public Health Foundation.

When considering that nearly 1 in 4 of Oklahoma’s children are also food insecure, the Oklahoma Food Bank says that Oklahoma consistently ranks among the top 5 states in the number of people who are hungry. It won’t get any better until Oklahoma’s leaders put Oklahoma’s citizens, young and old, ahead of partisan politics.

Some historians believe that Marie-Antoinette did not suggest cake for the starving masses. Without a doubt history will show that in 2016 Oklahoma’s leaders didn’t even suggest crumbs.

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

Oklahoma Jenga

Oklahoma Jenga - May 29, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

Jenga is a game played with 54 wooden rectangular blocks. Each block is three times as long as its width and one fifth as thick as its length. After the blocks are tightly stacked 18 levels high, players take turns removing blocks from the stack and balancing them on top of the tower, creating a progressively taller but less stable structure.

Over the past decade, special interests and their lobbyists guiding the Oklahoma legislature have used Jenga rules to establish tax policy and appropriate funds. During this period, Oklahoma has become progressively less stable.

Public Education is a favorite whipping boy of the elite and wanna-be elite. Even before the current world oil glut and price correction, our K-12 budget cuts were the deepest in the country.

As a reminder, during the period of prosperity when oil was $115 per barrel in June 2014; $119 in March 2013; $125 in March 2012 and $127 in March 2011, the legislature CUT Oklahoma’s per pupil inflation-adjusted K-12 expenditures. From FY2008 through FY2015, the anti-public school legislature CUT K-12 education by 23.6% and redirected nearly one in four education dollars to tax cuts for the wealthy and tax credits for corporations.

The new budget approved last Friday CUTS Oklahoma’s entire $33 million textbook fund for local schools and another $40 million from essentials like alternative education and remedial student services. Despite these cuts, anti-public school legislators and their corporate “sponsors” unceasingly pursue corporate charter schools, vouchers and ESA’s to skim public funds for private and religious schools.

Education cuts did not end at K-12. Some speculate that this year’s 15.9% Higher Education budget cut is retaliatory because the legislature was angered when OU’s President Boren proposed a ballot initiative to increase funding for K-12 and Higher Education. In any event, the FY2017 Higher Education budget is $67 million less than FY2016 and an additional $112 million less than FY2015.

Of course if education budgets were not slashed, corporate interests could not continue to enjoy their tax shelters and credits.

Perhaps the most offensive example of legislative hypocrisy occurred when it repealed the refundable share of the Earned Income Credit (EIC). The EIC provided the poorest 200,000 WORKING tax payers with an average of $147 per year. Legislators seeking repeal of the EIC could not comprehend how a cash tax credit could possibly be fair.

Poor working Oklahomans had no wining and dining lobbyists to remind legislators that hundreds of millions of dollars in tax credits are being handed out annually to corporations and many of those corporate tax credits are transferable.

What often happens is a company receiving a transferable tax credit that is worth more than the company owes in taxes can use the portion they need and then sell the remaining tax credit for 75% to 80% of its value to another corporation to decrease what they owe the state. This is a win-win situation for both companies but the state of Oklahoma and its citizens receive zero dollars.

Since working Oklahomans have no lobbyists to point out this hypocrisy, the refundable Earned Income Credit is no more and the transferable corporate tax credit lives to see another day.

Every game of Jenga ends when the blocks crash down. Unless you demand accountability from your elected state officials, Oklahoma will face the same result.

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

Digging to China

Digging to China - April 24, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

As have most children, I once undertook to dig to China. I am unsure why China is the anticipated destination of most amateur excavators, but I don’t remember anyone ever setting out to dig their way to Australia.

I am certain that most of us who began digging, had never heard of Henry David Thoreau, let alone read his 1854 book “Walden” in which he related the story of a crazy fellow who claimed that he gotten so far in his digging that he heard the rattling of Chinese pots and pans.

Likewise, we had not heard of the term “antipodes” which is Greek for “foot to foot.” Two persons standing at antipodes would be closest together at the soles of their feet. Today, American children have online access to an Antipodes Map that allows them to pinpoint their precise destination in the middle of the Indian Ocean, clearly showing that they and Thoreau’s “crazy fellow” were both badly mistaken when they speculated that China would be their destination.

Speculation is a dangerous thing. Just ask the Oklahoma legislature. Over the past ten years the legislature has speculated that draconian cuts to taxes on corporations and the wealthy and handing out virtually unlimited tax credits and deductions would create jobs, allow our economy to grow and provide sufficient government revenue to fund education, transportation and social services.

Today, critical services like public education, mental health, Medicare, Medicaid, rural hospitals and ambulance services, roads, bridges, fire and law enforcement, jails and other correctional facilities are facing “unprecedented” cuts. Services that protect our children and elderly are being downsized and risk being cut all together.

The bottom line is that Oklahoma and Oklahomans who are least able to cope with the loss of services are hurting and no one is to blame except the leaders of our state.

There are a number of solutions to our financial situation, but no one is willing to step up for the people of Oklahoma and reverse the decisions that put us in this situation. In fact, there are groups even today who continue to twist the arms of the governor and legislators to make further cuts in the Oklahoma income tax rate. Incredibly, they are listening to these groups who have no regard for the harm being inflicted upon Oklahomans.

Legislators and the Governor are proposing to use one-time funds to pay for recurring expenses. It is fiscally irresponsible to incur an expense that will recur year after year but use funds that will not be available in future years.

Another “solution” in the Governor’s budget is to borrow $450 Million to spend this year for roads and bridges. That plan to divert money from the current transportation budget for other purposes is nothing but a misguided plan to “borrow ourselves out of debt.” Loans must be repaid and it will take years and years to repay the $450 Million. This bad fiscal policy increases the state’s future debt for several years thus decreasing the amount of revenue available for ongoing expenses.

Will Rogers said, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” We are definitely in a hole but the budget plan is to keep digging.

If Oklahoma children were able to dig deep enough, they would find themselves about two miles under water in the Indian Ocean. Under water is the same term you would use to describe Oklahoma’s financial situation.

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

Thoroughly Modern Mistake

Thoroughly Modern Mistake - February 7, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

Set in 1922, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” features Julie Andrews as Millie Dilmount who hails from Salina, Kansas, and heads to New York City with the “thoroughly modern” idea of finding a wealthy husband. Neither love nor long term consequences “interfered” with Millie’s plan and singular goal of wealth and social status through matrimony.

Not unlike Millie, Oklahoma leaders have betrothed themselves to billionaire and multi-millionaire corporations, promising tax cuts, tax credits and tax rebates in return for campaign contributions, junkets and future corporate board positions and have sacrificed the health and education of our citizens, allowed our roads, bridges and other infrastructure to crumble and failed to protect the earning capacity of hard working Oklahomans.

The Revenue Failure that we are currently experiencing means that State Revenue is too low to meet the state’s obligations under the 2016 Budget. In addition to this budget year, we will likely be facing a $1 billion budget hole next year.

These budget problems did not occur overnight. According to a November 2014 article in Oklahoma Watch, Oklahoma has more than 400 Corporate Tax Credits, Subsidies and Direct Payments with the 24 largest paying out more than $750 Million per year and an August 2014 Tulsa World article mentioned that the New York Times had reported that Oklahoma was responsible for about $2 Billion in incentives that year. In two of the past three months, the Oklahoma Tax Commission has paid out more in corporate rebates and credits than it received in corporate income tax, making these subsidies unsustainable.

Last session I co-authored House Bill 2182, The Incentive Evaluation Act, which established a bipartisan commission to evaluating all state Tax Credits. I had hoped that the study would produce recommendations before this year’s session. However, Governor Fallin failed to make the required appointment to the Commission and Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa) delayed in the appointment of a member until about two weeks ago. These delays mean that the subsidies will continue.

Another reason for our situation is that, according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, state income tax cuts since 2005 have decreased annual state revenue by $1.022 Billion, but have only given median Oklahoma households an income tax cut of $19 per month. I joined several legislators in asking the Governor to delay the January 1, 2016 income tax cut, but instead, she left it in place and is looking at ways to increase sales tax revenue through the elimination of sales tax exemptions and taxing more types of sales.

Governor Fallin calls this “MODERNIZING the way sales tax is collected” and in her State of the State Address said that she hoped to increase sales tax revenue by $280 Million.

Oklahomans should watch this very carefully.

She wants the legislature to help her find $80 Million by eliminating sales tax exemptions. The current list of sales tax exemptions includes purchases by churches and non-profits, merchants, tuition, rural electric cooperatives, farmers, disabled veterans and cities, towns and schools as well as things purchased for resale.

She is looking for the other $200 Million to be increased revenue from sales taxes that will be imposed on things that are not currently taxed. A list of transactions that do not currently have sales taxes added are things like Veterinary Services, residential water, electricity, sewer and natural gas, insurance services, abstracts, bank service charges, haircuts and laundry services, tax preparation, advertising, carwashes, towing, professional services, surveying and labor charges.

It may be “thoroughly modern” to shift the tax burden from corporations to hardworking families by increasing sales tax revenue but it seems to be far from fair unless income tax cuts, credits and incentives are reviewed also.

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

Well That's Too Long

Well That’s Too Long - January 17, 2016

State Representative David Perryman

Oklahoma’s own Will Rogers was what you might call a chili connoisseur. Even as a world traveler, he knew that when it came to chili, there were two places on earth that delivered the best of what he called “bowls of blessedness” and both were in Texas.

One was a little café in Coleman and the other was a small cannery in the back of the Lyman T. Davis Meat Market in Corsicana. Mr. Davis had begun marketing his chili as Lyman’s Famous Home Made Chili in 1895, but in 1921 he started canning it using the trade name Wolf Brand Chili in honor of his pet wolf, Kaiser Bill.

Even though the delicacy was not sold outside Texas during Will Rogers’ lifetime, Will was a good neighbor and to maintain his dietary intake of big, thick, steaming bowls of Wolf Brand Chili, he often stopped off at the Corsicana airport to pick up cases of the canned “blessedness.”

Unfortunately, voters in the Sooner State don’t exercise the same urgency in making sure that Oklahoma children are properly educated that Will Rogers had in making sure that he kept a good stock of chili on hand.

Neighbor, how long has it been since Oklahoma teachers were paid a fair wage? How long has it been since teachers had the professional respect that they deserve?

Well that’s too long.…and sadly nothing’s going to change anytime soon.

Over the past eight years, Oklahoma has cut per pupil state aid funding for public schools more than any other state (nearly 25% after inflation) and Oklahoma has not increased the pay schedule for teachers since 2009. In 2016, the average pay for Oklahoma teachers is now third lowest in the nation and well below that of neighboring states, all according to the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

So, when teacher vacancies grew beyond 1,000, did the supply and demand gurus in state government respond by paying more for a scarce commodity? Nope.

Instead, they further disrespected the teaching profession by recruiting “teachers” who were conditionally certified or provisionally uncertified or temporarily certified or emergency uncertified or conditionally uncertified or provisionally untrained or just plain old warm bodies.

This year, the state has issued close to 1,000 emergency teaching certifications resulting in more than one in six Oklahoma teachers being educationally unqualified, untrained in the teaching profession and teaching without a standard certificate.

Earlier this month, Oklahoma’s public schools were told that they would have to cut $47 million from their current budgets. Now an additional $19 million cut is possible as early as February. That translates to each school in the state having to cut current spending by about $39 per student.

It is just a coincidence, but if the Governor would have agreed to delay the January 1, 2016, income tax cut, $47 million more revenue would have been available between January 1 and June 30, 2016 to help offset the current revenue failure.

Neighbor, how long has it been since Oklahoma voters have taken the time to hold the governor and their legislators accountable?

Well that’s too long. 2016 is an important year. Register to vote Republican, Independent or Democrat. Study the issues. Vote in the best interest of the future of Oklahoma.

For comments and questions, 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

 

What's On Your Agenda?

What’s on Your Agenda? - November 29, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

Although the 2016, Oklahoma State Legislative Session does not officially begin until next February, like many legislators I am listening to constituent concerns and reviewing potential legislation that may be filed for consideration next year. December 11 is the last day to request legislation and I welcome your comments.

While all eyes and ears have been on getting past a predicted $1 Billion budget gap, recent cuts to mental health funding, road and bridges, higher education and career tech underscore that there is no relief in sight for Oklahoma’s woefully underpaid public school teachers. One would think that everyone would be pulling together to protect threatened state services from cuts that will also force county and municipal governments to increase sales taxes and property taxes to maintain local services.

Then a couple of things happened. I ran across an article in the Perspective, the publication of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA). It exclaimed, “Why the Long Faces?” and trumpeted the consensus of its “brain trust” that Oklahoma’s budget shortfall presented 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.

Kansas was held up as an example of good governance since it had recently made draconian cuts to its income tax rate. However, the 2015 edition of the Tax Foundation’s “Facts and Figures” showed 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.

Since the date of the OCPA article, Kansas, feeling the negative impact of its income tax cuts, increased its state sales tax to a rate that is 44.4% higher than Oklahoma’s.

Then, this week, the American Federation for Children (AFC) 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.

Suddenly it became apparent that even in these dire financial straits, we are not all paddling in the same direction.

Amid the budget struggle, the OCPA and the AFC and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are laying the groundwork for a concerted effort to grab tax dollars for private school vouchers and “educational savings accounts” funded by tax dollars.

Oklahoma already has school vouchers for children with disabilities. Oklahoma already has direct and tax credit scholarship programs that take money from the general fund to subsidize private school educations. Now, through a series of leading and ambiguous questions, this poll attempts to justify and legitimize the redirection of public tax dollars from public schools to private and religious schools.

These groups were responsible for the new law allowing the state department of education to approve charter schools anywhere in the state, even when the local school board objects. Allowing vouchers will be just as easy. The choice is yours.

Comments or questions? David may be reached at 1-800-522-8502 or at David.Perryman@okhouse.gov

 

Fiddling with the People's Money

Fiddling with the People’s Money - May 24, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

Abraham Lincoln was only 25 years old when he was elected on the Whig ticket to the Illinois state legislature in 1834. According to another Whig, Horace Mann, the philosophy of the Whig Party of that era saw public education as the best way to “turn the nation’s unruly children into disciplined, judicious republican citizens.” The Whigs also supported the “American System,” a belief that economic and industrial growth would be the direct result of vigorous programs expanding “internal improvements,” especially road and canal systems.

It was against this backdrop on January 11, 1837, that Abraham Lincoln expressed his strong opinion regarding the use of public funds for the direct benefit of private interests:

“It is an old maxim and a very sound one, that he that dances should always pay the fiddler. Now, sir, in the present case, if any gentlemen, whose money is a burden to them, choose to lead off a dance, I am decidedly opposed to the ‘people’s money’ being used to pay the fiddler… all this to settle a question in which the people have no interest, and about which they care nothing. These capitalists generally act harmoniously, and in concert, to fleece the people, and now, that they have got into a quarrel with themselves, we are called upon to appropriate the ‘people’s money’ to settle the quarrel.”

Clearly, Lincoln, and those of his Whig Party saw the difference between investing in education and infrastructure on the one hand and “paying the fiddler” for private interests on the other.  It takes very little imagination to see what Lincoln’s response would be to corporate tax credits, rebates, exemptions and other forms of today’s corporate welfare.

It is no surprise then that the Oklahoma state budget would not pass muster with Abraham Lincoln and the fiscally astute Whigs. Oklahoma’s budget proposal that had been shamefully kept secret until this past Wednesday afternoon and immediately, the supermajority in the house voted to suspend the rules to allow it to go to a vote on the house floor. As a result, the supermajority tossed government transparency to the wind so that the public would not have time to react to the draconian cuts and crippling effect to core services.

This procedure kept many constituents in the dark and prevented citizens across the state from contacting their legislators. After all, the leaders of the supermajority would not want to compete with constituents for the attention of the legislators who would be voting on the bill.

Consequently, most voters were unaware that the legislature was in the process of forcing more college debt on students by cutting $24 Million from the Higher Education Budget or that career doors were being closed on students of all ages because nearly $7 Million was taken without warning from the Career Tech budget.

Likewise, County Commissioners were busy trying make roads and bridges passable after millions of dollars of storm damage and had no time to react to the $72 Million swept from their County Road and Bridge Fund or the caps placed on future funds. ODOT and cities and towns were unaware of the $30 Million more taken from the road funding appropriation or the $17.5 Million that was swept from the account that pays for the operation of Weigh Stations across the state.

Veterans were left in the dark about the $2.7 Million that was taken from programs that benefit them and Medicare and Medicaid recipients did not know about the $111 Million dollars was taken from the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, including the entire $25 Million fund for Insure Oklahoma that helps provide health insurance for low income working Oklahomans.

These are only about half of the cuts and funds taken from state agencies to bridge the $611 Million budget gap. Most others also relate to services that are essential to Oklahomans and $271 Million was taken from the Rainy Day fund and Cash-Flow Reserves.

The national economy is flourishing so what has Oklahoma done wrong?

Over the past ten years, Oklahoma’s corporate and personal income tax rates have been cut multiple times, by a total of more than 20% with another cut scheduled to go into effect next year. Tax Revenue must be used to fund government and not for credits, subsidies, tax breaks and other corporate welfare. 

Until those issues are addressed, Lincoln’s fear of using ‘the people’s money’ to pay someone else’s fiddler will continue, there will continue to be budget gaps and you can rest assured that the budget will continue to be voted upon just before midnight with all the shades drawn.

Your comments or questions are invited at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Getting a Good Head Start for the Future

Getting a Good Head Start for the Future - May 17, 2015

Ideally, everyone in Oklahoma enjoyed a healthy breakfast this morning. Ideally, everyone got a good night’s sleep in a comfortable bed. Ideally, families protect babies and nurture children. Ideally, personal responsibility and civic duty are traits that are a part of the psyche of all citizens.

Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world. We never have and we never will.

For reasons too numerous to address in this short space, we live in a world of advantages and disadvantages. We live in a world of economic inequities, social inequities and educational inequities all contributing to inequities in opportunity.

This month marks the 50th Anniversary of Head Start. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson established Head Start as a way to help disadvantaged preschoolers develop social, emotional, early reading and math and physical skills they need to be successful in school.

Head Start programs promote school readiness through improved access to educational, health, nutritional, social and other services to children and their families by engaging parents, families and community support.

In 1994, Early Head Start was added to address the comprehensive need of children under age 3 and pregnant women in families with low income.

Head Start (HS) and Early Head Start (EHS) are based on the idea that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and in 2014 provided Education Services, Health Services and Family Service to nearly 20,000 disadvantaged children and over 200 pregnant women across Oklahoma.

Educationally, HS and EHS identify special needs, promote family literacy, align curriculum and assessments with public schools with a goal toward making children ready for school.

Health wise, HS and EHS coordinate medical, dental, vision and hearing screenings and referrals, nutrition services, health education, mental health screening and referrals and preventive medical care. Since 2013, over 3,000 children across Oklahoma have been diagnosed and are receiving medical care for chronic conditions that would otherwise be neglected or gone undiagnosed.

During that period in the state of Oklahoma, 336 children have been identified as anemic; 1,351 asthmatic children are now receiving treatment; 997 children have been diagnosed with hearing difficulties; vision problems have been addressed in 1,585 children; and 33 children were discovered to have juvenile diabetes.

Each of these conditions affects a child’s ability to learn and cause them to fall further and further behind, socially and educationally.  Their impediments hinder their maturity into adults who are able to contribute to society.  Each condition was treatable and if they had not been discovered through Head Start and Early Head Start screening, control or recovery of the condition would have been delayed. A consequence of the delay is that treatment if possible, would have been much more costly.

Early immunization also helps protect all society.  In fact, more than 91% of all HS and EHS enrollees are up to date on their shot records, protecting the population as a whole.

There are many ways to assess the effectiveness of government programs and assessment of any government expenditure is essential and encouraged in an open society, however, it is difficult to find a program whose success has been so widely recognized across party lines as the Head Start program. Despite this success, the Oklahoma’s appropriation to Head Start has decreased by more than 10% since 2009. Those cuts equate to more than $260,000 per year.

The program keeps parents, families and the community engaged and provides links to community resources giving the family direction by setting parent and child goals out of poverty and disadvantage while educating parents and instructing them on parenting skills.  Its mission of providing disadvantaged children with a “head start” toward school readiness continues to be a government program that works.

Happy 50th Birthday to Head Start programs everywhere and thank you to the millions of staff and volunteers that have joined together to give our children a hand up instead of a hand out.

Your comments or questions are invited at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.