I recently received a survey from my state representative seeking input on how to address issues that face the Oklahoma Legislature. Here is his survey exactly as it reads from the mailer:
The 2017 Oklahoma Legislative Session Begins February 6.
The main issues expected are:
I. Oklahoma budget. We face a $900 million budget shortfall due to low oil and gas prices. Past Legislatures spend too much when oil and gas prices were high, so now we have to cut.
II. Teacher salaries. The voters overwhelmingly rejected the recent proposed sales tax for teacher pay, but other ways exist to pay for a $5000 teacher pay raise, which costs about $245 million per year.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail me at Kevin Calvey, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, Ok 73105, with YOUR input on how to address these issues.
ONLY surveys with name and home address will be considered!
City, State, Zip
Phone Number, Email
Here are some options. Please indicate which of the following ideas you like, and add more if you choose:
|1. Eliminate the $200 per year in payments to the wind industry, which promotes renewable energy.|
|5. Eliminate some spending on public safety, government health care, and other non-education costs. Most of these agencies were cut last year.
If yes, how much?
|2. Eliminate $328 million in excessive administrative costs in higher education (state-owned universities and colleges). That would put Oklahoma at the national average- we are 4th worst in the US in the percentage of our higher education dollars which are not spent on instruction.|
|6. Raise taxes. Keep in mind that raising taxes will make Oklahoma businesses less competitive with businesses from surrounding states, and thus less able to create much- needed jobs. (For my part, I’ve never voted to raise taxes, but I want YOUR input).
If yes, which taxes would you like to increase?
|3. Save $181 million by requiring all college professors to teach as many classes as the best 20% of professors. (Studies show many college professors do not teach much, if at all).|
|7. Other options. Please feel free to list other options, and your estimates on the cost savings below. Keep in mind that some options would take some time to generate revenue or savings, perhaps not in time for this year’s budget.|
|4. Eliminate $255 million+ in excessive non-classroom costs in common education (government-run K-12 schools). By trimming admin increases to no more than increase in the number of teachers. Oklahoma ranks almost worst among the 50 states in the percentage of our common education dollars that do NOT go to full-time classroom teacher compensation.|
- I am unfamiliar with exactly how much of a tax break renewable energy is receiving from the state. If there is the opportunity to generate revenue here, it should be explored. I understand the oil industry is benefitting from tax breaks as well, these should also be explored.
- I am not sure where you get this specific number. I have spent the last two years working on a Ph.D. at Oklahoma State University. Although I am unfamiliar with the inner workings of the budget process at the university, there is almost zero waste. Are there areas that can be reworked – probably. I encourage you to spend time with those involved with the administration of the university.
- In the United States the university system is divided into three tiers. Tier I universities are research universities. The University of Oklahoma is a Tier I school, as such, there is an emphasis on research. Research takes time and can be expensive. Most professors at Tier I schools still teach in addition to working on research. Tier II universities also emphasize research, but the teaching load for most professors is higher than at a Tier I school. Tier III schools fall behind Tier II. At schools that do not offer doctoral degrees, the teaching load is even higher. There is also the issue of determining how a professor is considered one of the best 20% of professors. What metric will you used to determine this? Best researcher, best teacher, best ____________?
- There is no more money to eliminate from our schools. Before you consider non-classroom cuts, please spend some time embedded inside our educational system. Any further cuts here will have a direct impact on our students.
- We have eliminated as much as we can from our essential services. I believe that our educators and our students deserve more than our legislature has been able to provide. I also believe that education should not benefit at the expense of other agencies that are so important to our citizens.
- I understand your views on taxes. However, at some point, our legislature must find and develop revenue streams to support the citizens of Oklahoma. One place to start is to unroll the tax break that went into effect in 2016. It was unnecessary given our state revenue issues.
- I am not familiar with all of the different ways that the state issues tax credits, refunds, or other entitlements. This entire system should be reviewed line by line. Some of those decisions will be very hard to make, but our state needs revenue – not more cuts. If our tax rate on something is ridiculously low on something, make a change. I know that horizontal drilling falls into this category. I know that we need businesses to want to come to Oklahoma, but they need to contribute to the state they are moving into. Not be exempt.