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27 Aug
0

Kouplen Responds to Marlatt Tax Hike Accusation

Rep. Steve Kouplen (D-24)

Rep. Steve Kouplen (D-24)

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, responded Thursday to the claim by Sen. Bryce Marlatt, R-Woodward, that House Democrats want to finance a teacher pay raise with a tax increase

“There is one thing Senator Marlatt and I can agree on,” Kouplen said, “and that is, as he stated, ‘Our teacher shortage has reached a crisis point, and our teacher salaries continue to fall further behind those of our regional competitors.’”

Oklahoma ranks 48th in the nation in teacher pay, and dead last in the region – an average of 9% lower than salaries paid in surrounding states.

“When did that happen?” Kouplen continued. “Did it occur just recently? Or could the senator’s statement have been made two years ago when more than 30,000 people came to the Capitol to express their concerns for education, asking the Legislature to not cut income taxes or gross production taxes and fund education?”

The senator’s claim that any member of the House Democratic Caucus proposes a tax hike “is laughable,” Kouplen said. “The senator knows that because of State Question 640, the likelihood of any tax hike in Oklahoma is virtually nil,” Kouplen said.

“However, SQ 640 did not prevent fee increases that everyone in Oklahoma – from businesses to John Q. Public getting a driver’s license – will tell you have skyrocketed.

“Requesting a delay or halt to an income-tax cut that was enacted when Oklahoma supposedly had the third-strongest economy in the U.S. is not a tax increase. If the senator thinks that maintaining the income-tax rate at the existing level is equivalent to a tax increase, he took a different math class than I did.

“Even when the economy was strong the Republicans were cutting state programs and budgets,” Kouplen recalled.

“The real question is how do we deal with this crisis? The term ‘crisis’ to me means immediate. So let’s examine Senator Marlatt’s proposal:

  • It will be five months before the Legislature is back in session next February.
  • We face a possible billion-dollar shortfall in the state budget next year.
  • The next general election is 14 months away.
  • It would be 2017 before any pay increase or money for education was possible under his proposal.

“So, would you wait that long to deal with a crisis? That sounds like the captain of the Titanic rearranging the deck chairs after they hit the iceberg. Instead, I suggest the senator ask the governor to call a special session of the Legislature to deal with this crisis.

“And while we’re debating whether to rob the constitutionally protected Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund to finance a teacher pay raise – and you can be assured that that would be just the first of numerous raids on TSET funds – let’s deal with other critical issues, too, like the Corrections Department, health care, county roads and bridges, the Department of Human Services, and mental health, just to name a few. I’m sure those folks are busy rearranging their deck chairs, as well.”

NOTES

  • Republican House Speaker Jeff Hickman, speaking to the Tulsa Republican Club last Friday, said Oklahoma is “one lawsuit away” from another federal takeover of its prison system. (State prisons were under federal supervision for 11 years, 1974-84.) Oklahoma prisons are at 116% of capacity but staffed at only 60% “of where they should be,” Hickman said.
  • Oklahoma’s incarceration rate of 654 per 100,000 residents compares to a national rate of 480 per 100,000, and Oklahoma imprisons women at the highest rate in the country, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • Oklahoma’s $53.01 in per-capita expenditures on mental health services is the 46th lowest in the nation, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation calculates.
  • The obesity rate in Oklahoma is the sixth-worst in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Although tobacco use in Oklahoma has declined, 23.7% of the adults in this state – almost one of every four – used tobacco products in 2013. Research showed that 22.7% of Oklahoma high-school students – more than one of every five – used some tobacco product in 2013, and almost 10% of all Oklahoma middle-school students used a tobacco product that year.
  • The Oklahoma State School Boards Association said its latest survey indicated that even though 600 teaching positions were eliminated since the 2014-15 school year, school districts report 1,000 teaching vacancies remain.
  • A $1,500 per year across-the-board pay raise for Oklahoma’s 40,000+ public school teachers would cost approximately $65 million. Interest earnings from the TSET corpus, certified earlier this month, totaled $42.8 million.
  • The reduction in the state income tax from 5.25% to 5% on Jan. 1, 2016, will lower state revenues by $400 million over the next three years, the Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates.
  • Oklahoma’s combined local and state tax burden is the fifth-lowest in the nation (Tax Foundation).
  • Oklahoma’s corporate tax burden is the seventh-lowest in the nation, and Oklahoma’s property tax burden is 11th-lowest in the nation (Oklahoma Department of Commerce).

(Representative Kouplen can be reached through his Capitol office at 405.557.7306.)

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08 Aug
1

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24 Jun
0

ODP Files Request for Ethics Opinion Regarding Governor Fallin’s Trip to Europe

[Oklahoma City, OK, June 23, 2015] – Connie Johnson, Vice-chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party and former candidate for the United States Senate, has filed a request for an ethics opinion regarding Governor Fallin’s travel to Europe during June of 2015. The ethics request seeks to determine the propriety of a private organization, believed to be the Oklahoma Business Roundtable, paying the expenses for the Governor and her spouse for such a trip.

“If this kind of private gift is allowed,” Mark Hammons, Chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, said, “it would be a tremendous loophole in our ethics laws.” Hammons also stated such payments from private organizations would appear to violate the Oklahoma Constitution’s oath of office which states:

“I ……, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Oklahoma, and that I will not, knowingly, receive, directly or indirectly, any money or other valuable thing, for the performance or nonperformance of any act or duty pertaining to my office, other than the compensation allowed by law; I further swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully discharge my duties as …… to the best of my ability.” Oklahoma Constitution Article XV, § 1.

If Governor Fallin was representing the State of Oklahoma on this trip, then such payment by a private group would appear to be money for the performance of an act or duty pertaining to her office.

Given the tragic conditions occurring in Oklahoma during the flooding, with loss of life and property, the Governor’s absence should not be induced by a gift from a private organization.

Oklahoma taxpayers need to be told who was in charge of the state’s Executive Branch while the Governor was in Paris. Lieutenant Governor Lamb was not visible at any disaster site or coordinating any of the emergency readiness, preparation, or prevention activities. None of the Republican leadership or Republican appointed agency heads appeared to be working to coordinate the essential relief actions or engaging in preparation or prevention efforts. Who stepped up to fill the void in leadership arising fro the Governor’s absence?

Hammons said, “It appears that the governor is out of touch with working Oklahomans. She was not one of us and not with us at our time of need.”

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16 Jun
6

Notice To Reconvene State Convention

The State Democratic Convention, conducted on May 30, 2015 at Oklahoma City Community College, was recessed following the election of officers. The recess was done to allow the Convention to consider certain resolutions, constitution, and bylaw provisions which could not be reached within the time period for which the Convention was allotted.

The location of the reconvened Convention will be Oklahoma City Community College (the same location as before). The date of the convention is Saturday, July 25, 2015. PLEASE MARK THIS DATE AND MAKE PLANS TO ATTEND!

Any persons designated as delegates prior to the May 30, 2015 Convention will be entitled to appear at the reconvened session whether or not such persons appeared at the first session. Persons who appeared in person on May 30th, may appear by proxy at this Convention and persons who appeared by proxy appear in person. The same rules governing proxies continue to apply and new proxy forms are available online or by contact the Oklahoma Democratic Party main office directly.

The matters to be addressed at the reconvened Convention include the following:

Resolutions:

  1. XVIII    Opening Primaries To Independents

BY-LAW CHANGES:

  1. Art IX, Sec.: Allowing independents to vote in the primaries

Other Resolutions

  1. III Healthcare – Section C
  2. VIII Environment – Section C and Section G
  3. XI Gun Rights – Entire Resolution
  4. XII Social Justice – Section B
  5. XVI Taxation – Section D
  6. XVIII The Democratic Party – Section “A

Constitutional Changes:

  1. V Affirmative Action – Sections 2 and 3
  2. V Affirmative Action – Section 4 (new)
  3. VII Committees Powers and Duties                – Section 7A
  4. VIII Central Committees – Section 3G (new)

Other Bylaws Amendments

  1. I Calls and Elections of Officials – Section 1D
  2. I Calls and Elections of Officials – Section 1E
  3. I Calls and Elections of Officials – Section 8H
  4. V Voting – Section 10
  5. Numerous changes in Bylaws sections to eliminate the word “Alternate” and/or “Alternate Delegate” and any grammatical corrections needed…
  6. Numerous changes to add “electronically or otherwise” after the word “mailed”
  7. Numerous changes to add “electronically or otherwise” after the word “mailing”
  8. II Certification of Elections – Section 1F
  9. IV Recall – Section 3E

Prior to the recess of Convention, the proposed resolution suggesting open primaries (inclusion of Independent voters in the Democratic Primary) and the Bylaw change authorizing such open primaries were consolidated.  These matters will be commonly debated and require a simple majority of the members.

Because of the importance of the open primary issue, the Chair will entertain a motion to enlarge the time allocated for debate of this issue for proponents and opponents alike. It is suggested that to facilitate the debate, the number of proponent and opponent speakers be limited to four (4) per side. Each side of the issue is requested to submit their proposed representatives. A motion to limit the number of speakers will be entertained if this cannot be resolved by agreement.

It is the intention of the Chair to recognize, honor, and allow brief statements by all those persons in attendance who represented the Party as nominees for statewide office in 2014. It is also the intention of the Chair to recognize all present elected officials of the Party and to invite special guests.

All prospective Democratic candidates for any office will have the opportunity to meet delegates and distribute campaign materials. All candidates and prospective candidates are invited and encouraged to attend, so please spread the word.

Lunches will again be available at the Convention at a cost of $15.00 each (the same cost as before). Again we ask that you pre-order your lunch NO LATER THAN FRIDAY, JULY 17th as additional meals will not be available for purchase on-site at Convention. Please visit www.okdemocrats.org/convention-lunch to order or call the office directly at (405) 427-3366.

Finally, the Party is kicking off its “Sustaining Members” fundraiser. Under this program the Party is soliciting automatic monthly contributions via credit or debit cards. Membership is open to any Democrat willing to make a sustained monthly donation. While there is no minimum, it is requested that donors pledge to contribute at least $10.00 (if not more) per month.

Any County that has 100% participation from its delegates as Sustaining Members, will be recognized at Convention. All individual donors will receive ribbons to display at the Convention. To donate online please visit www.okdemocrats.org and click on the “DONATE” button. Online sign-ups and auto-draft forms will be available at the Convention. 

AN OFFICIAL CALL TO CONVENTION WILL FOLLOW

26 May
3

Can Our “Middle Class” Be Revived?

The following opinion article was submitted by Kenneth Wells, Chair of Stephen County Democratic Party. The views expressed here do not necessarily equal endorsement of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

Can Our “Middle Class” Be Revived?

With the loss of the middle-class in the socio-economics of the United States a looming certainty, we can only ask ourselves, “What must happen to rejuvenate a meaningful atmosphere for all to live in?”

The “Middle Class” was (1) the outcome of a transition from an agricultural-based economy to an industrial-manufacturing economy, (2) World War II and (3) the rise of Organized Labor during the next 3 decades.

The transition from agriculture to manufacturing caused a drastic shift in the way people lived. People moved from rural areas, where their closest neighbor might be miles away, to city living – stacked on top of each other – a condition that is still prevalent today.

Modern farming equipment, faster methods of transportation and the promise of a more steady income was the downfall of the “family farm.”

World War II not only pulled the United States out of a “Wall Street” and “top heavy wealth” inequality. It also brought the U.S.A. out of the Great Depression. While large segments of the male populations in industrialized worlds were involved in military operations, women were called upon to fill industrial-production vacancies. When the war ended and service men came home, they found their prior production jobs filled by females. That brought about another socio-economic shift – madam now working to add to the family’s income.

Many of those who were drafted or enlisted into the different branches of the military found their educations interrupted which produced a “hole” in their economic advancement. The answer to that problem was congressional legislation – the “G.I. Bill”- which provided funds to returning servicemen/women with which to complete their educations. Tied to the “G.I. Bill” was another “Middle-Class” improvement – U. S. Government-backed financing with which the G.I. could purchase a home.

While all of this was being accomplished, President Harry S. Truman reorganized the U. S. War Department into what is now known as the Department of Defense. This action removed the Air Corps from the Army and created a stand-alone U. S. Air Force. Going one-step farther, he de-segregated ALL of the Armed Services of the United States.

Low wages, unsafe working conditions, child labor and excessive working hours with inadequate compensation were the initial socio-economic problems Organized Labor focused on. Improving those conditions brought about the rise of a class of people who could expect that their families would have a home of their own, enough to eat, a proper education for their children and savings for retirement.

To once again build that same “Middle Class” will require strong socio-economic action by federal and state governments. To overcome today’s inequalities, we will need politicians who are not empowered by financial organizations and/or large corporations donating to their “war chests.” Welfare to corporations which use our highways, railroads and natural resources significantly while paying insignificantly in use taxes, and tax giveaways for companies to relocate or expand, must cease. Those same politicians should introduce a progressive income tax system which disallows entities at the top of the income level to pay a smaller percentage of their income in year-end taxes than the lower income tiers. Sadly, today, there is little hope for this.

This is my last Democratic Opinion Article for the Duncan Banner. I want to thank the Editor(s) for allowing me to share my thoughts and opinions with you for the past three years and to my readers for your support! In the future, with the good graces of the Duncan Banner staff, the weekly Democratic Opinion Article will be furnished by Gary Reddin, Secretary of the Stephens County Democratic Party. Gary is well aware of the trials and concerns facing Oklahomans – from socio-economic inequalities to an inadequate criminal justice system to women‘s rights and beyond.

In preparing my weekly article, I must pay homage to those who assisted me in my endeavors. First, to Jack Guerkink – who is no longer with us – for his expertise and understanding of our “capitalist” system and its misuse by the powerful, and to my wife Koleta, who brought me back onto my intended path when I wandered in my writing!

Kenneth Wells 580-444-2563

twinnwells@gmail.com

facebook.com/stephenscountydemocratparty/oklahoma

While I am no longer a steady contributor to the Duncan Banner I will continue to record my opinions in my Blog, on40acres.wordpress.com and the Facebook page listed above. These posts will also be sent to news agencies as in the past.