Infrastructure

Water, Water Everywhere

Water, Water Everywhere - May 26, 2019

State Representative David Perryman

Annie Edson Taylor was a school teacher and like many Oklahoma school teachers are required to rely on other sources of income to make ends meet. Ms. Taylor was resourceful and imaginative. So much so that on her 63rd birthday, she tried to secure her financial future and avoid the poorhouse by becoming the first person to ride over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Ms. Taylor’s feat took place in 1901 and fortunately today, parents and grandparents who are nearing their 63rd birthdays are counting the months until they will become Medicare eligible and begin drawing their Social Security. Annie Edson Taylor did not have that option as the partisan fights surrounding Social Security was more than three decades away and the goal of attaining a universal health care system for America’s retirees was not realized until President Johnson’s similar struggle in the 1960’s.

On October 24, 1901, Annie’s custom made oak and iron barrel with a mattress inside was put in the water near Goat Island, above the falls. She climbed in and the barrel was sealed and then a bicycle pump was used to compress the air inside. The drop was more than 188 feet and the water volume over the falls was nearly 225,000 cubic feet per second and Ms. Taylor succeeded with only a small gash on her head.

Today, the peak flow of Niagara Falls is just over 100,000 cubic feet per second and it is ironic that the power and majesty of the water flow over those majestic falls is dwarfed by the water in Oklahoma’s watersheds the past several days. In fact, water being released from just a single Oklahoma reservoir, Keystone Lake is exceeding the flow from Niagara Falls. Last week officials announced that the flow would be increased from 80,000 cubic feet per second to 160,000 cfs,the equivalent of 1.6 million gallon jugs of water per second.

On the Friday before Memorial Day, the Corps of Engineers announced that the flow had been increased to 250,000 cfs and the morning Memorial Day the flow was increased to 275,000 cfs, or nearly 3 times the peak flow of the powerful Niagara. Despite the dangers and devastation, the situation could have been much worse if another political struggle had not occurred in the mid-1930’s. One of the many infrastructure programs promoted by the Franklin Roosevelt administration was a system of Soil and Water Conservation districts.

While many conservative and right wing groups attacked it as socialistic and unaffordable, legislation was passed that enabled Oklahoma to participate in the program beginning in 1937. Over the past 82 years, countless lives, homes, and other properties have been saved, not to mention the benefits that have inured to Oklahoma’s soil.

Today, Oklahoma has 2,107 small watershed upstream flood control structures - more than any other state. Oklahoma has always been a leader in flood control, beginning with the construction of the first flood control dam in the nation in 1948.

Additional federal flood control legislation, also opposed by conservatives as socialistic, gave rise to a network of Corps of Engineers projects on Oklahoma’s larger rivers that continue to save lives, property and provide Oklahomans with critical recreational revenues.

Programs like these benefit all Oklahomans everyday including in times of natural disaster. Programs like Social Security and Medicare benefit Oklahomans everyday on a personal level helping them with health concerns and keeping them from suffering abject poverty. They also keep our retirees from performing stunts like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

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

Just When You Thought It Was Safe

  Just When You Thought It Was Safe - October 18, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

From Duel, the 1971 made for TV thriller of a terrified motorist stalked by a mysterious tanker truck, to Bridge of Spies, the 2015 silver screen account of Cold War espionage, Steven Spielberg’s film resume may be unrivaled.

He took us on close encounters with E.T. and Indiana Jones and helped us save Private Ryan and meet Mr. Schindler. We have gone back to the future to the land before time with Jake and Elroy Blues to frame Roger Rabbit, visited poltergeists, gremlins and men in black traveling much more than a one hundred foot journey to places like Jurassic Park.

Nothing made us inspect our bathtubs for shark infestation like Spielberg’s 1975 cinema thriller, Jaws, even though the catch line from Jaws 2 previews, “Just when you thought it was safe to go back into water,” had more lasting impact than the 1978 sequel itself.

Now Congress is giving new meaning to that warning. No sooner had the governor signed legislation authored by Rep. Scott Inman (D-Del City) to make children’s lives safer, a congressman filed a resolution that opens the door to allowing the weight of trucks to increase from 40 to nearly 46 tons.

Inman’s bill becomes effective November 1. It follows the child car seat safety recommendations of the American Pediatric Association and will save the lives of Oklahoma children.

Now, just when we thought it was going to be safe to take our kids on road trips, Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI) introduced H.R. 3488, called the “SAFE Trucking Act.” With a goal of increasing the maximum weight of trucks from 80,000 to 91,000 pounds, it is anything but safe.

Based on an USDOT study conducted in Washington state, the proposed weight increase will make brake failure more common, will cause a 47-percent higher crash rate and cost us more than $1 billion in additional bridge repair expenses.

Proponents of larger and heavier trucks would have you believe that the traffic would be limited to Interstates and other major highways. The facts show otherwise. Local roads comprise 95% of our nation’s roads and every year large trucks travel 50 billion miles on those local roads. Couple that with the fact that 36% of the bridges on those local roads are more than 50 years old and 66 percent of the bridges owned by local cities and towns are classified as “structurally deficient.”

Local roads are also the most likely to have narrow lanes, limited shoulders, sharp curves and steep hills.  Add it up and you get a traffic fatality rate that is nearly 300 percent higher than all other roads according to a 2014 TRIP report. From 2009 to 2013, more than 500 Oklahomans were killed in accidents involving large truck crashes.

The USDOT study showed that increasing the weight of a heavy truck by only 10 percent increases bridge damage by 33% and although proponents say that increasing the weight will result in fewer trucks, the study shows that allowing heavier trucks will result in rail freight being diverted to our highways.

The very industries that are destroying our roads receive millions of dollars of tax cuts and tax credits. Consequently, we do not have funding to repair our roads. We don’t need Spielberg to tell us that it’s not safe to come out of the pothole and increasing legal truck weight by nearly 15% is not the answer.

David may be reached at 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.

Whac-A-Mole

Whac-A-Mole - July 26, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

Proclaimed by some to be the greatest golf movie ever made, this month marked the 35th anniversary of the motion picture, Caddyshack. The 1980 movie involved wealthy members of Bushwood Country Club attempting to preserve the club while a billionaire developer, played by Rodney Dangerfield sought to purchase the property for development.

However, this Chevy Chase classic is better known for the subplot showcasing assistant groundskeeper Carl Spackler, played by Bill Murray as he matches wits and weaponry with a gopher that is wreaking havoc on the golf course.

Nine years earlier, a guy named Aaron Fechter had invented an arcade game that also featured nuisance rodents. Fechter’s 1971 contraption allowed contestants to whack plastic moles as an air cylinder system randomly popped them up through holes in the game’s console.

We still might be playing Whac-A-Mole today if barely a year later Atari hadn’t introduced its Pong video game. Overnight, pinball machines and other vintage arcade games of chance and skill were replaced with all shapes and sizes of video screens and the rest, as we say, is history.

Today, the closest thing to Whac-A-Mole in Oklahoma is the method and madness of calls for special legislative sessions. While it is true that there are many issues that are not properly addressed during session, few justify the cost of a special session.

In 2013 readopting unconstitutionally adopted laws that made it more difficult to obtain a judgment against a negligent party was important enough for a special session.

But no special session was called in 2014 or 2015 even though the legislature failed to adopt new standards to replace Common Core. Consequently, in a few days, Oklahoma teachers will return to the classroom without any standardized educational goals or objectives.

Likewise, nothing was done to add common sense to the third grade reading test or end of instruction testing. Now, Oklahoma parent groups are organizing boycotts of tests required by Oklahoma, but not by the federal government.

As the session ended, city and county officials from across the state pleaded that their road budgets not be cut. Storm and flood damage increased as the request was ignored and the income tax cut was not delayed. Oklahoma’s ability to repair roads and bridges, fund education and health care is in further jeopardy. No priority there and no special session.

Let’s see what Oklahoma does when its citizens can no longer board a domestic commercial flight or enter a federal building with their Oklahoma driver’s license.  Oklahoma is among a handful of states that is on a temporary extension for compliance with the REAL ID Act of 2005.  Most deadlines have already passed and domestic air travel could be restricted as early as January 2016.

Compliance has not been a priority during regular session. Will the governor use the Whac-A-Mole method to call a special session? If not, Oklahomans who are not allowed to board flights should Whac-An-Elected Official.

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

 

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt - May 31, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

Sixty years ago, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version of “Sixteen Tons” reached number one on the Billboard charts. The lyrics were written and performed by Merle Travis nine years earlier, but Ford’s beloved humor and rich bass-baritone voice sent the song to the top for seven weeks in late 1955 and early 1956.

The folk song relates the social and economic oppression of a culture that labored endlessly in the coal mines. The monumental task of loading sixteen tons of coal day after day was rewarded by nothing more than being ‘another day older and deeper in debt.’ The constant and inescapable debt arose because of low wages and a ‘truck system’ in which workers would be paid with private scrip that could only be spent at the ‘company store.’

Since that economic system treated workers as tools or resources to be used and cast away, it provided, at best, only bare subsistence. The ballad spoke of a people that were too poor to die. According to the lyrics, “St. Peter, don’t you call me, ‘cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store.”

This mindset that a person is resource that may be taken, used and discarded is the same mindset that causes a state to use infrastructure that exists without planning for its replacement or repair. Historically, Oklahoma’s aging infrastructure installed generations ago has been used and abused, and even if currently functional, it suffers from deferred maintenance.

According to the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, in 2014, only two states spend less in local and state spending and the majority spends from 25% more to 250% more than Oklahoma on things like roads, bridges, education and health care.

According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, that equated to $1,700 less per person than the average state in 2005 and $900 less per person than our surrounding states. Consequently, the condition of Oklahoma’s public structures and facilities rank in the bottom 10 states nationwide.

Coupling the deplorable condition of our infrastructure with a complete lack of fiscal foresight, Oklahoma puts itself in a condition of being unable to “pay the piper” as roads, bridges and water and sewer lines collapse from age and neglect.

Politicians run for office on a platform of “cutting taxes” without regard to the cost of delivering core services. The fallacy in perpetually cutting taxes is an inexplicable assumption that government will always be “too big; that there will always be “waste in government;” and, that governmental services will always be available regardless of the amount of tax revenue.

The fiscal TRUTH is that when taxes are cut, governmental services will be cut, unless other sources of revenue are identified and utilized to fund governmental services that are at risk. For instance, when state income taxes are cut, counties, cities and towns will be forced to increase sales taxes or property taxes to repair roads, educate children or provide health care.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, income tax cuts are a poor strategy for economic growth and the states that tried deep income tax cuts over the last three decades have not seen their economies surge as a result. In fact, four of the five states that enacted the largest personal income tax cuts in the last few years have had slower job growth since enacting their cuts than the nation as a whole.

Four of the six states that cut personal income taxes significantly in the 2000s saw their share of national employment decline after the cuts were enacted. The exceptions -- New Mexico and Oklahoma -- grew mostly because of a sharp run-up in oil prices in the mid-2000s. That trend reversed when oil prices declined.

For decades, individuals and businesses have utilized water and sewer lines and roads and bridges that are 50 to 75 to 100 years old and given little thought to their upkeep. With historic flooding and storm devastation, we find that tax cuts have devastated our ability to pay for repairs. That should not be a surprise since we were unable to pay for education and health care prior to the storms.

Our infrastructure is another day older and we’re deeper in debt. My, what a bind! We have sold our soul to the party line.

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

Fueling Road Repair

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

State Representative David Perryman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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