News or Fake News?

It was again reported that state revenues missed the mark. Revenues in December were down 12 percent. It was the ninth time in 2016 that general revenue receipts “fell short of the target.” When added all together, Oklahoma faces a $900 million budget hole which will trigger automatic spending cuts.

Individual income tax receipts and sales taxes missed the target by 15 percent. Gross production receipts were up, but amounted to less than 4 percent of general revenue. Motor vehicle tax receipts were also down according to Randy Krehbiel.

Against this dire news, one bright spot appeared – if we can believe it. The Criminal Justice Task Force announced that they would announce reforms that could generate $2 billion in savings over the next 10 years.

Oklahoma, it seems has an incarceration rate that is 78 percent higher than the nation’s as a whole. The number of people we imprison has gone up for 38 straight years. It doesn’t make any sense, but so much that happens in this state doesn’t make sense.

As the Tulsa World reported, seventy-five percent of admissions to the Oklahoma prison system were for non-violent offenses. Of those, a little over half had no or one prior conviction. Eighty percent had never committed a violent crime.

Let’s hope that the task force is able to make the necessary reforms to save $2 billion. Reforms unfortunately don’t come easily to our state.

This is especially true in education where the administrators and superintendents do quite well to the detriment of the teachers.

Recently, a group of lawmakers had a breakfast meeting with TPS Superintendent Deborah Gist. Everyone, it seemed, supported raises for teachers, but there was no discussion of shrinking Oklahoma’s bloated school district system.

One piece of “Fake News” coming from the meeting was the statement: “It takes a TPS teacher 18 years to earn what’s considered a living wage in Tulsa County.” This is not the truth. The average beginning teacher makes $35,000 a year – which is higher than most any other starting salary out of college.

Another lie in the paper was the statement, “One first-year TPS teacher with a bachelor’s degree calculated her monthly paycheck of $1,437.96 was dwindled down to a daily budget of $4.96 per person for her and her child after she paid $900 on rent and $240 on bills for gas, electric, trash and water.”

This teacher must either be completely incompetent when it comes to finance or has student debt and other payments taken from her check that cause the gross to be so low.

During these difficult times, the state must expand its tax base. We must open an office in California, Illinois, etc., to recruit new business to the state. Doing what we have always done won’t work anymore.

If you want to see how economic development is done, just spend a few days in Frisco, Texas, which is northwest of Dallas. The place is booming. Whoever runs Frisco’s economic development should be hired by Oklahoma.

Another idea that makes sense is to sell the naming right to many of our colleges and universities, especially those whose name makes no sense. Southeastern, Southwestern, Northeastern and East Central are geographic locations. Let Oklahoma’s major individuals or corporations buy the naming right.

I personally would rather attend Devon University than Southeastern Oklahoma State.