POTEAU, OKLAHOMA - Continued Discussion of possible legislation affecting the health of LeFlore County was held on Friday, January 12, 2018 at the Donald W Reynolds Center in Poteau.
The purpose of the meeting, conducted by Lundy Kiger of AES, was to learn what's at stake related to possible legislation that will be agreed and attempted to pass to fill the revenue shortfall for the state.
“Our purpose is to make as many people as possible informed on any new updates or directions state leaders might be attempting that is either positive, or especially negative to killing jobs in our county related to business, industry, education and natural resources,” said Kiger.
Kiger presented ideas that have been developed, by people not living in rural Oklahoma. These will be reviewed and discuss as possible options and strategies to help protect LeFlore County jobs.
Once such organization is “Step up Oklahoma”, a nonpartisan group of business, civic and community leaders came together to work with lawmakers to develop the Step-Up Oklahoma plan. According to their website - Step Up Oklahoma would stabilize state revenue, reform government to increase efficiency and cut abuse, and raise teacher pay by $5,000 a year.
In the discussion Kiger presented some key factors on who influences the state, such as the Oklahoma State Chamber, Lobbyist, Oil & Gas companies, Step Up Oklahoma, PACS, individual contributors and a few state employee groups. With State players being Governor, Senate President and House Speaker.
Who is are local influence? Mayors, business owners, community leaders & Individual contributors such as Senator Allen, Representative West & Democrat Representatives.
Also in the discussion were the state budget short-falls with too much government spending & waste, budget cuts to core services, cuts reducing state aid for Education, health care and core services, state cutting incentives and companies making financial investments. There has also been multiple years of budget deficits and years of fluctuating revenues and weak government leadership.
The past year legislators went into special session only to see a revenue vote failing and a veto that created additional reductions at CASC - higher ed, health care & state agencies.
Some issues facing the state is of course the Health Department’s $31 million Issue as well as a Revenue Shortfall which created a national issue for Oklahoma, yet the state directors get $18K Raise.
The Oklahoma Budget is expected to be in the Hole about $600 Million and state revenues increasing - more state revenue increases could be devastating LeFlore County & rural Oklahoma
So, what’s up for 2018
Tax Increase and reforms are coming, Reforms in State Government, New State Questions, Governor Pushing for $1B, Step Up Oklahoma Pushing for $800M and State Chamber Pushing for Common Sense Revenue Decisions.
Step Up Oklahoma & the Governor Reform wish list
Lower the Supermajority Threshold Required on Revenue Bills to 60%
Establish reliable budget stabilization fund to protect budget in economic downturn. (Use GPT and Wind Generation Taxes)
Require passage of line-item budgets with legislative oversight
Revise term limits to cumulative 16/20 Years
Grant Governor direct appointment power over some state agency directors—Dissolve boards such as Labor, Education OCC & Largest 6-8 Agencies
Change process filling supreme court vacancies (Possibly Congressional Districts)
Create Independent “Congressional Budget Office” Gaining Inter-Agency Synergies & Eliminating Waste
Grant Voters at county level the authority to tailor their form and Make-up of county government
Revise state budget to reflect all sources of revenue
Increase teacher and principal pay
Revenue raising Measures $800 million
Cigarette Tax by $1.50 per Pack $61M/$244M
Gross Production Tax 2% to 4% $135M
Little Cigars, Chewing & E-Cigs $3.2M/$13M
Motor Fuel Tax $0.006 per Gal $29M/$170M
Cap Incentives on Coal, Wind & RR $18M
Gaming Modernization Craps/Roulette $22M
Individual Income Tax to 5.25-5% $49M/163M
Eliminate Certain Individual Taxes $175M
What LeFlore County needs to save jobs
Local legislators must develop key relationships with other members.
Local legislators must be willing to compromise and negotiate to protect funds for local jobs.
Local legislators must be willing to vote with caucus leaders on final agreements when asked, even if it goes against their personal beliefs.
Local people and leaders must be willing to get involved personally making calls and visits with local legislators and state leaders.
“Our county is positioned to see growth and better economic times but if the wrong steps are taken by legislators it could set our county back nearly 30 years and double-digit unemployment again,” said Kiger. "Rumor has it that legislators will be called back to the state capitol for a special session. It's very possible a large revenue bill will be considered for passage. If the rumors are true, then we need to voice are concerns to all legislators of what we need to protect our local economy. The more people involved the better chance we have of keeping our education institutions open, health care funded along with core services in all rural counties."