Taxes and Infrastructure

Monday at 11 a.m. KGOU will air Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s State of the City speech (lots of uppercase letters in that lead). Listening to Cornett review the success OKC has seen in the past decade or two, I can’t help but think that MAPS is the key.
Yes, taxes.
It’s a five-letter word at 23rd and Lincoln unless the word “cut” is included in close proximity. The StateImpact Oklahoma team did a good job looking at the success of the MAPS tax.
I can’t help but wonder what a targeted state tax increase could mean for the state? I don’t even know if that is possible, but my guess is if you told Oklahomans they were going to get 1,265 miles of upgraded roads, better municipal water supplies, upgraded schools and better access to mental health care, and came up with a plan like Oklahoma City did, you might be surprised at the level of support.
Submitting a tax increase to the people might just pass. Should the people be given a choice in the matter?

Consolidation Returning to Schools Unsearchable?

Before teachers, chambers of commerce, mayors, moms and local football boosters panic, it’s the consolidation of computers, software and other information technology services on the agenda. Gov. Mary Fallin mentioned her Open Range plan during the State of the State speech this week (seems like longer).
Basically, the plan, as presented by Fallin’s IT guru Alex Pettit, would allow school districts to voluntarily obtain their tech needs from the state. Pettit says this will save millions of dollars by driving a harder bargain with vendors and buying things in bulk.
Democratic Rep. Richard Morrissette doubts the savings would be as great as advertised. I asked Pettit about schools choosing not to buy from local businesses in favor of the state. He said since the plan is voluntary, they could still buy locally.
One issue that cropped up while I was doing research on the Open Range program is that Google doesn’t seem to know about it. I tried searching for the program using one word and two. I’ll be doing more searches on state programs to see how easy it is to find them.

Crying Wolf? Budget Leader Questions Corrections Needs

Gov. Mary Fallin’s chief budget negotiator indicated the dire consequences forecast for Oklahoma prisons if they don’t receive more money may be overstated, or at least hyped.

Preston Doerflinger made pointed comments yesterday when asked about the $1 million increase in the 2013 budget for the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections and no extra money for 2012.
Corrections Director Justin Jones told a legislative budget panel in January he would have to take extreme measures if lawmakers did not provide more cash for the current fiscal year.
“We can’t go any further or we’re going to have blood on our hands,” Jones told lawmakers. He also said 29 percent of DOC workers qualify for food stamps.
Those comments may be what prompted Doerflinger to single out DOC for its budget request. He said the prison system was not considered for a supplemental appropriation. “We’ve got to have a very frank conversation with the director and understand exactly what the needs are, no smoke and mirrors,” Doerflinger said. “I don’t want to hear doom and gloom… in an attempt to sow fear and doubt.”
Listen to Doerflinger’s comments.

Not Much New Expected from Gov. Fallin Tomorrow

I hope Gov. Mary Fallin has a few surprises in store during her State of the State address tomorrow. Last time she outlined her agenda there wasn’t much unexpected except for a ban on smoking on state property. It included the conversion of the smoking room in the state Capitol basement into a fitness center, but even that plan had to be changed after it was decided the existing space was much too small.
The governor says she will present a tax cut plan that will be much more modest than a proposal last year that would have moved Oklahoma toward a personal income tax rate of zero. That effort failed to go anywhere. Sen. Sean Burrage (D-Claremore) told reporters he isn’t even reading tax cut bills because it was wasted time last session. The leader of the record minority in the Senate may be the most outspoken in the leadership, or at least the one who directly speaks his mind.
At a recent legislative panel discussion sponsored by the Oklahoma City Chamber, Burrage gave a clear, “No,” answer to a question about putting more guns in public schools. You can read an opinion piece on his response from my friend M. Scott Carter of The Journal Record newspaper:
Fourth Reading: The simple courage of saying ‘no’

KGOU and other public media throughout the state will be carrying Gov. Fallin’s State of the State speech. Most will air it live starting at 12:30 p.m. You can also stream it from KGOU’s website.