22 May

Oklahoma Democrats Discuss Republican Presidential Hopefuls Attending SLRC

Republican presidential hopefuls from around the country are visiting Oklahoma for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this weekend.
It’s good that the conference is here in Oklahoma, because the challenges we are facing in our state and the fight over misplaced priorities here provides the perfect backdrop to focus in on what’s important in choosing the future leader of our country.

This year our state faces a $611 million shortfall – and the choices leaders made on how to address and fill that budget gap say a lot about their values and priorities.

In-state, Republicans chose to slash vital programs that support the middle-class and make our state stronger for the future. Why? To preserve tax breaks that will do next to nothing for the hardworking families and small businesses that drive our economy.

The contrast between the parties is as evident at the national level as it is in the fight on our state level:

Republicans presidential hopefuls want to embrace the failed policies of the past that benefit a select few at everyone else’s expense – and Democrats want to continue to move the country forward and strengthen the middle class.

Democrats have been and will continue working to move forward for the middle class.

For the years under Republican leadership Oklahoma has continued to fall in education, and now we have almost reached the bottom of the barrel. That doesn’t stop Democrats from fighting to get to the top of the class and provide access to early childhood education, classroom resources, and a fair and equitable education for all students in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma schools are experiencing an unprecedented teacher shortage and those courageous teachers willing to keep going are tired and neglected. Schools are crumbling and shutting their doors. Around this country, public schools are fighting rising class sizes and declining state aid – but Democrats are the ones here and nationally who are standing up for education because we understand its importance as “the great equalizer.”

As Democrats, we know that issues like ensuring pay equity and raising the minimum wage are not just women’s issues – they are family issues, and they are economic issues. That’s why, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama. And why Democrats nationally continue to fight for a fair living wage so no hard working American has to live in poverty.

Under Democratic leadership in the White House, we have experienced 62 straight months – five full years – of private sector job growth nationally. Pay and benefits rose in 2014 by the most in the last six years.

Meanwhile, here in Oklahoma under Republican leadership, we’ve seen an outsourcing of our state dollars – privatizing state entities from prisons, to schools, to Medicaid programs, and seen a loss of accountability and transparency in our government.

In short: Democrats are the party of inclusion, of empowerment, and expanded opportunity. We are the party fighting to ensure that all Americans, not just a select few, have a fair shot and a chance to get ahead with the opportunity to achieve that legendary “American dream.”

This election will come down to a key contrast in values: As Democrats fight to build ladders of success for the middle class, Republicans are trying to bring back trickle-down economic policies that have failed time and time again.

Democrats will work to ensure everyone has a fair shot, while Republicans continue to stack the deck in favor of the wealthy and corporations and against working families.
So as the GOP candidates descend on Oklahoma this weekend we’re urging Oklahomans, and everyone else who’s watching around the country, to pay attention to what the candidates say — but more importantly take a look at their records.
And I’ll turn it over to Holly to go into a little more detail.

The records of the Republican hopefuls are clear – and they don’t line up with the values of Oklahomans or the American people.

Marco Rubio says he’s a new leader with fresh ideas, but he’s a just peddling the same tired Republican playbook. Rubio opposes raising the minimum wage and said that suggesting it would help Americans move up was “silly.” Rubio defends tax loopholes and cuts for the wealthy and corporations, but has proposed raising taxes and fees on the middle class.

Scott Walker’s talked about bringing Wisconsin to Washington, but the fact is he’s already brought the worst of Washington’s dysfunction and divisiveness to Wisconsin. Walker pitted the people of his state against each other in ideological fights, while his true priority has been to please his special interest allies at the expense of working Americans.

Chris Christie and Bobby Jindal’s failures as governors have driven their state economies and finances over a fiscal cliff– leaving the middle class to fall even further behind in New Jersey and Louisiana. Much like Mary Fallin, who is more concerned about toeing the Tea Party line than addressing our state’s challenges.

Earlier this year, Mary Fallin vowed to support education – particularly higher education – but many Oklahomans agree this was the worst year public education has seen in decades–promises were broken and higher ed was cut by more than $24 million. This is exactly the kind of leadership we’ve seen and can expect from her Republican colleagues.

Ted Cruz is determined to oppose and obstruct any and all attempts to help the middle class. He led the fight to shut down the government so he could deny people affordable, quality health care – costing the economy $24 billion in the process.

Rick Perry’s failed record in Texas tells us all we need to know about what kind of leader he would be — one who never fails to put allies and special interests before working families.

As for Jeb Bush – well we know exactly what to expect from a Bush presidency, because we’ve seen it before: policies that wreck the economy, that give massive breaks to the wealthy and corporations, and that are out of step with the American people, including women, LGBT Americans, Latinos and people of color. Throughout his career, Jeb Bush has consistently put what is best for himself and people like him above the priorities of working Americans.

We know the devastating impact that pitting people against people, and core functions of government against each other, can have on the middle class. That approach is what the Republicans visiting Oklahoma this week continue to embrace, and it’s not a recipe for success for our country.

21 May

ODP Chair Statement on Budget Plan and Failures of the Oklahoma Legislature

[OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, May 21, 2015] – The following statement can be attributed to Wallace Collins, Chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party:

“A budget deal has been worked out although it is well past the Republicans’ self-imposed deadline of April 1st. The Republicans have long complained that the Democrats never came to a budget agreement early enough, but they have now found out that governing is harder than just complaining. They did however, spend countless hours finding solutions to problems that don’t exist and discussions on coming up with $25 million to fund a new Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa.

“After receiving the deepest cuts in the nation (23%) in the last two years, we can be grateful that common education received no additional funding cuts; however, a flat appropriation is, in reality, a cut given the regular inflation of other expenses, increases in requirements, and the more than 40,000 student increase in enrollment. We can also be grateful that, for now, the Teachers’ Retirement Fund was not raided to fill in the budget hole. Sadly though, there is no money for a pay increase for active teachers or a cost of living increase for retired teachers – yet another promise of “next year.”

“We constantly hear rhetoric from the Governor about the importance of education yet funding for Higher Education was cut by over $24 million, meaning higher tuition, a loss of upwards of 100 academic courses as well as numerous faculty and staff positions at universities across the state. The Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology was cut by nearly $5 million and the Oklahoma Arts Council was cut by seven-and-a-half percent (7.5%). Many of us, as parents, grandparents, teachers, and students, recognize the importance of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) courses; however, the Oklahoma legislature apparently does not recognize the importance these studies play in the overall education and well-being of a student.

“What I find most ironic is that the budgets of the Oklahoma House and Senate were not cut yet, despite the increasing number of damaged roadways and closed bridges, the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges Fund (CIRB Fund) was raided for money to help “balance” the budget. I do not understand how the leadership can brag about keeping the public safe when money desperately needed to rebuild county roads and bridges is being “stolen” from those revenues in order to plug holes in the state budget.

“Even the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture received a cut of over $1.1 million despite legislation this year which will impose higher fees, with an expected price increase of a gallon of milk as a result. But fear not middle-class Oklahomans! The income tax cuts of which the savings is around $35 per year for average Oklahomans yet significantly help the rich should help to offset your increased out-of-pocket expense at the grocery store; most of the tax credits are for corporations whether or not they create jobs or boost Oklahoma’s economy and infrastructure.

“I suppose it should be considered a bright spot that the Department of Corrections was finally given an increase of 2.9% after years of a “starvation diet.” The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services also saw a small increase and after a cut of around 21% in the past few years, any increase is appreciated.

“Another bad idea to come from the “smaller government” Republicans is the idea to take tax money from all Oklahomans to subsidize small rural counties that are losing population. Yes, it is true, HB-1747 would do that very thing! If a person, either from out of state or just from an Oklahoma county that is not shrinking in population, would agree to move to a county that is losing population, that person moving would be Oklahoma tax free for five years. Whatever happened to free markets? If a person cannot make a living in such a county, why would the state pay them to move there? Answer, we should not. This bill will take more tax money away from the County Improvement Road and Bridge Fund, Education funding, etc., and yet place more of a burden on the already shrinking county’s infrastructure. If this bill is signed into law, it will stay in effect for 60 years.

“While it would be nice to end on a positive note, the fact that next year’s budget will most likely will be worse since this year’s budget was formed by raiding agency revolving funds again, using rainy day money, funds from the Unclaimed Property Fund, – which will need to be repaid if people make a legitimate claim on that money – and other sleight of hand funding methods. The prospects are not bright for a truly balanced budget in the near future from the party of “fiscal responsibility.”


14 May

ODP Chair Wallace Collins’s Statement on Appointment of TC Ryan as Top Oklahoma Republican Party Official


[OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, May 14, 2015] – “I am disappointed in Chairman Brogdon’s decision to appoint TC Ryan as a top party official for the Oklahoma GOP.

“The charges against Mr. Ryan for domestic abuse in the presence of a minor child and interfering with an emergency call, – charges which he later pled guilty to – the following bench warrant for failure to pay associated fines, and then the fact that he was the first choice for one of the highest positions of the Oklahoma GOP shows the complete lack of respect the Party has for women and the people of Oklahoma. Anyone that would put an admitted abuser at the top of the ladder should have all decisions called into question.

“The fact that Mr. Ryan reportedly took a very short leave of absence as a result of public scrutiny over his despicable past behaviors, as well as uproar from within the Republican Party itself, is not encouraging. Now that the leave has been reported as a change in title, we can be certain that Randy Brogdon has no grasp on the damage this will do to his own party. Quite simply, Mr. Ryan should resign.”


Media Contact:
Sarah Baker
Communications Director
Phone: (405) 824 – 7077
Email address:

14 May

How do you un-ring a bell?

By Wallace Collins, Chairman

TC RyanDoes the recent “leave of absence” now reported as a change in titles, taken by T.C. Ryan undo the controversy created when the newly elected Republican State Party Chair, Randy Brogdon appointed the twice convicted domestic abuser to be the new Executive Director of the Republican party?  Ryan pled guilty of domestic abuse in front of a minor child in 2012.  He was apparently given a fine to pay, and let go.  It appears that Mr. Ryan failed to pay the fine and a bench warrant was issued for that failure.  The charges against the Republican officer also include interfering with an emergency phone call, most likely to 9-1-1 to report the domestic abuse.  All these things occurred in 2012 and 2013, well before Chairman Brogdon appointed Ryan to the high post within the state Republican Party.

From a party claiming to stand for “family values”, it doesn’t make good sense for the State Chair of the Republican Party to ask the new Executive Director to step down and stay on with the party in a new position of Political Director.  What gives?  Does a change in title remove the stain of a guilty plea to Domestic Abuse in front of a Minor Child?  What about the charge of Interfering with an Emergency Phone Call (for help)?  It certainly seems that the Oklahoma Republican Party does not care about women or children or they would not keep this abuser on.

Does this apparent disdain for the safety for women and children show the real attitude of the new chair and his party?  For a party already standing accused of conducting a “War on Women” it seems a little odd that the chair of that party would install a person already convicted of abusing a woman in front of her minor child.  This incident is so upsetting for many that reports are that even members of the Republican legislative caucuses have called for the removal of T.C. Ryan.

In my opinion, a resignation would have been better, because a simple change in title leaves the door open for a later upgrade after the issue blows over.  It is well known that T.C. Ryan was a friend of Chairman Brogdon, but should a friendship overpower common sense and allow someone with the baggage of “domestic abuser” be placed in a high position of power?  In my opinion, the bell has already been rung and there is no way to un-ring this bell!


Read the official statement here.

11 May

Republicans Continue Their Pattern of Bad Behavior

By Wallace Collins, Chair

Oklahoma’s Republican leadership has a long history of a pattern of bad behavior.  Early on, it was Governor Frank Keating calling teachers ”slugs,” then he claimed that Oklahoma college graduates could not properly fill out a job application. Later on, Frank Keating was asked by a media reporter, how he would deal with teachers and their organization, the OEA.  Keating’s smart alec reply was “homicide.”   Still later, Republican Labor Commissioner, Mark Costello called state employees “feral hogs,” but when confronted by a TV reporter, he said he didn’t mean state employees, he meant teachers.

We then follow those mistakes in judgement with the collusion between current governor, Mary Fallin and past Superintendent of Public Instruction, Janet Barressi to close the small but important state agency for Assistive Technology.  That small agency provided education, technology, coaching, and equipment for people with various disabilities, mostly children.  Even after several budget reductions, the Assistive Technology Agency was closed leaving thousands looking for help.

The current legislature is not exempt from this pattern of bad behavior. They continue passing more tax cuts and failing to close loopholes when everyone is well aware of the huge budget shortfall – now expected to possibly reach $670 million according to Earl Sears, (R-Bartlesville) Chari of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.  The Republicans are attempting to use sleight of hand tricks to fill the huge budget hole, things like HB-1827 by Scott Martin (R-Norman) which would raise fees on funeral homes and institute a true “Death Tax” by creating a new fee on the filing of death certificates.

Other bad behavior includes the idea of robbing the teachers’ retirement fund of money to use for other purposes.  Oklahoma teachers have never been well paid, and it is unbelievable that some Grinch would want to then steal from the well-earned pension program, but that idea is a part of the Republican “fill the hole” program. Retired teachers have done without a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for about seven years, losing as much as 15% of their purchasing power.  Last year the governor bragged about adding “new money” for education, but what she didn’t tell us was that the new money followed 23% cuts in funding,  the deepest cuts to education of any state in the union.  So the so-called “new money” brought Oklahoma education funding up to 2008 funding levels.  I guess Oklahoma voters should be satisfied that education funding levels are only seven years behind the rest of the country. Forty-thousand more students and much less money sounds like bad math to me!

Oklahomans have already been warned by the governor that all agencies can expect deep cuts in funding, approaching 7% or more.  With mental health programs and services and Oklahoma veterans already suffering from neglect and past budget cuts, they can certainly expect more pain and suffering, as can the state employees, and the Department of Corrections.  Prison overcrowding and staff shortages have long passed the dangerous level, causing Oklahoma to lead the nation for in-prison murders.  Correction staff and guards are at risk every day and should there be a riot, most likely could not even protect themselves, much less other inmates.

Additionally, there are plans are to raid the County Improvement to Roads and Bridges Fund – the funding source used by counties to replace the many dilapidated county roads and bridges in Oklahoma – which then puts everyone that travels in rural Oklahoma at risk.

Another bad option being considered by Republicans comes with HB-1566, which would privatize Medicaid and balance the budget on the backs of “non-institutionalized aged, blind, and disabled persons.”

In spite of all this, Governor Fallin and her Republican leaders in the House and Senate have refused to put off or rescind the next round of tax cuts slated to go into effect in July of this year.  The tax cuts will further reduce the amount of money the state can appropriate, when it cannot currently pay all of its bills.  I think it was once called “VooDoo Economics.”

All Oklahomans should be up in arms about these serious problems, so contact the Governor’s office to voice your displeasure over this bad behavior.  She can be contacted at (405) 521-2342 and also contact your own House and Senate member.  The House number is (405) 521-2711, the Senate is (405) 524-0126 and ask for your legislator by name.

Don’t know who your legislators are? Click here to find them now.