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20 Feb
0

RELEASE: House Democratic Caucus – Hemorrhaging State Budget

Opening Salvo in 2018 GOP Gubernatorial Contest Focuses Attention on Hemorrhaging State Budget, ‘YVC’ Panel Notes

OKLAHOMA CITY (19 February 2017) — The Republican contest to decide who will succeed Mary Fallin as Governor of Oklahoma opened last week with a double-barreled blast at the state’s chief executive officer.

“Your Vote Counts” moderator Scott Mitchell noted that 2002 gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson released a two-and-a-half-minute video [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyCEXVGNQds] Wednesday that mentioned just about every one of the 164 services on which Gov. Mary Fallin suggested the 4.5% state sales tax should be imposed as a means of establishing a permanent, reliable source of revenue for the State of Oklahoma, which has three consecutive years of huge revenue deficits.

The next day Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb resigned from the governor’s Cabinet. “…I cannot support her proposed tax increases,” Lamb said. “While Governor Fallin and I have disagreed on issues from time-to-time, our differences on this important topic are so significant they preclude me from continuing to serve on her Cabinet.”

(In a recent post on his blog, “My Back Page,” Blanchard Schools Supt. Jim Beckham recalled that Governor Fallin threw Janet Barresi “under the bus” because “it was no longer politically correct” nor in Fallin’s best interest to support her State School Superintendent. “[A]s Fallin jumped into the lifeboat off the sinking Titanic, she waved bon voyage to Barresi,” Dr. Beckham wrote, then added, “Well, what goes around, comes around – when it comes to politics.”)

“This is about getting the [GOP] primary started,” Mitchell said. He pointed out that Richardson, a Tulsa attorney, ran for Governor as an Independent in 2002, placing a distant third behind Democrat Brad Henry, the winner, and Republican nominee Steve Largent. Lamb is expected to be a gubernatorial candidate in 2018.

“This makes it a lot more difficult for the governor to continue to work on tax reform,” said Rep. Jason Dunnington. It is “disconcerting,” the Oklahoma City Democrat said, when the state’s lieutenant governor abandons his seat on the governor’s Cabinet “instead of sticking in there” and “working harder” to “help make a better future” for the state. “Average Oklahomans can’t leave their jobs when things get tough,” Dunnington said.

The Richardson/Lamb hubbub complicates efforts to resolve the state’s $900 million shortfall “and what we need to do” to plug that gap, said Rep. Leslie Osborn, who chairs the House Committee on Appropriations and Budget. Fallin “came out with a million tax increase ideas, which was probably too much and scared everybody to death,” the Mustang Republican said. But rather than propose solutions, Lamb and Richardson “threw up their hands” and shifted “to the far right.”

According to Osborn, 85% of all state agencies have had their budgets cut 40% in the last 10 years. “If we don’t want to do any revenue-raising measures – which would be small and few – we can cut them another 20% this year,” she said. “But do we want to keep cutting district attorneys’ councils and firefighters and the Highway Patrol and education?”

Oklahomans “want us to govern from the middle,” she said. “We need to come together and make a decision on what we want the future to be.”

“If the power shift continues to the far right and we continue to cater to those” who promote unconstitutional legislation that prohibits women from choosing their own health care, and legislators who “try to put a gun in every 2-year-old’s hands because we say it’s their God-given right,” Dunnington said, then “we’re getting farther and farther away from what we really need to do, which is focus on core services of government…”

Although the governor’s tax plan “is on the rocks,” Mitchell said, a proposed $1.50-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax that was defeated last year is back on the negotiating table this year. If it can’t pass the Legislature, “there’s not a chance in the world” that any of the governor’s other proposals will pass, either, Mitchell predicted.

The cigarette tax is “the template,” Osborn said. Polls indicate it is supported by 75% of Oklahoma voters. Moreover, the proposed tobacco tax increase would “shore up” mental health, rural health care, rural hospitals, the state Health Care Authority, the state Department of Human Services, and services for foster children, she said.

“If this doesn’t get bipartisan support,” Osborn said, echoing Mitchell, “it will be very difficult to get any revenue-raising measure” through the Legislature. “And then we’ll just have to keep cutting our way to prosperity.” The Legislature continues to evaluate state agency operations with an eye toward consolidating and streamlining wherever possible, she said, “but it’s also time to invest in our state.”

“This is really about the health of Oklahoma citizens,” Dunnington said. The proposed cigarette tax increase “would be a first step,” he said. “There are many other revenue measures out there … a lot of tax loopholes” that could be sewn shut. Oklahomans “are tired of the politics at the Capitol,” Dunnington said. “What we need to do now is … make sure we’re funding core services of government and taking care of the people in Oklahoma.”

“Your Vote Counts” airs Sunday mornings on KWTV in Oklahoma City, and afterward is streamed on the station’s website at “www.news9.com/yourvotecounts”.

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

17 Feb
0

RELEASE: ODP Statement on Pruitt’s Confirmation as Head of EPA

For Immediate Release
February 17, 2017
 
Media Contact:
Angela Allmond, Communications Director
405-536-2417
Oklahoma Democratic Party
 

The White House Agenda – Dismantle the EPA with Scott Pruitt’s Confirmation

OKLAHOMA CITY – Scott Pruitt’s confirmation today is another glaring example of the White House’s interest in dismantling efforts to protect our environment and our children’s future, all for big oil and gas profits.

Climate-change-denier, Pruitt, spent most of his time as Oklahoma’s Attorney General fighting the EPA with frivolous lawsuits against clean air and water concerns with the support of big oil and gas. By joining Trump’s administration, the door is wide open for Pruitt and his energy entourage to begin breaking apart EPA regulations to meet big oil interests.

The vote came to 52 yes votes and 46 Senators voting no. Two Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota broke away from their caucus to cast yes votes – votes that could have halted Pruitt’s confirmation. There were also two Senators who did not cast any vote: Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Republican John McCain of Arizona. These three Democrats would have prevented the disastrous future of the EPA if only they had done what was right, like the rest of the caucus, and even two Republicans Senators, did today.

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The mission of the Oklahoma Democratic Party is to represent working people in Oklahoma and the best way to accomplish that is to elect Democrats to all areas of government. Oklahoma Democrats are progressive and sensible. We are optimistic about the future, and we are determined to see Oklahoma’s traditional values upheld. More information about the Oklahoma Democratic Party can be found at www.okdlive.wpengine.com or by calling (405) 427-3366.

17 Feb
0

RELEASE: House Democrats – ‘Caregiver Support Act’ Endorsed by House Panel

‘Caregiver Support Act’ Endorsed by House Panel

OKLAHOMA CITY (17 February 2017) – A measure intended to “help us better care for our loved ones” passed its first legislative hurdle recently.

House Bill 1357, the proposed “Oklahoma Caregiver Support Act,” was endorsed 8-0 by the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Human Services. Its next stop is the full A&B Committee.

More than half a million Oklahomans spend an average of 21 hours each week “taking care of a mother or father, husband or wife, sister or brother, son or daughter, a friend or someone else,” said Rep. Regina Goodwin, principal author of HB 1357.

“There are resources, information, counseling, training, and even some money – $400 vouchers for those who qualify – to help ease the load of caregivers who juggle schedules, work and finances to care for loved ones,” the Tulsa Democrat said.

HB 1357 would direct the state Department of Human Services to “work with caregiver community groups across the state in a cost-neutral manner, using existing resources to:

  • support expansion of the number of locations in which services are provided to caregivers “via workshops and sites closer to home,” Goodwin said;
  • ensure that the geographic locations of these sites include low-, mid- and high-economic-income areas “in order to provide greater accessibility” to caregivers;
  • provide that the locations selected include schools, city and county facility “in which no usage fee shall be charged.”

The bill also would instruct the DHS to support awareness of information about services available to caregivers; assistance to caregivers in gaining access to available services; individual counseling, support groups and caregiver training; and respite care to provide caregivers with temporary relief from their responsibilities.

Goodwin said her bill has “broad support” from the DHS, the Caregivers Coalition, the AARP and Morton Health Clinic, among others.

The Senate sponsor of HB 1357 is Sen. A.J. Griffin, R-Guthrie.

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

17 Feb
0

RELEASE: DNC Statement on Confirmation of Pruitt to EPA

DNC Statement on Confirmation of Pruitt to EPA

WASHINGTON – DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile issued the following statement:

“There’s a hungry fox guarding the henhouse at our Environmental Protection Agency. Scott Pruitt is a climate science denier who has spent his career in the pocket of the fossil fuel industry, actively fighting on behalf of some of the worst air and water polluters on earth. As Attorney General of Oklahoma, he sued the EPA more than a dozen times and even went so far as to paste a letter from one of Oklahoma’s biggest oil and gas companies onto his official state government letterhead to oppose federal pollution regulations.

“Now Donald Trump and the GOP have put him in charge of the very agency that he seems to despise. Pruitt is worse than unqualified – he’s openly hostile to the idea of protecting our environment. The devastating consequences of this appointment may be felt for generations to come.”

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17 Feb
0

RELEASE: House Democratic Caucus The People Have Spoken on Criminal Justice Reform!

The People Have Spoken on Criminal Justice Reform!

By Rep. Dr. George E. Young, Sr. Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair

I am so appreciative of the support that is mounting for the idea that has taken the form of legislation I filed this year (House Bill 1476) for discussion and debate concerning a very important and significant issue within our criminal justice system: eliminating contemporary “debtors’ prisons”.

The very idea of penalizing someone because of their economic status is simply unacceptable. In statute and in law it is unlawful, yet in practice it occurs. Let me quickly say that part of the problem is that as a legislator, and among legislators, we have failed our criminal justice system by not giving them the financial foundation to do the work we call on them to do, so they have had to find other ways to pay their bills.

My first year in office, I was asked to come into the office of the chair of the committee in which my bill for fees and fines had been assigned. The chair, an attorney, said to me, “George, what you are asking for is a fundamental change to the criminal justice system.” I thought about it and what he said sounded so large that I recoiled for a moment, but then quickly I thought (and please forgive this former pastor), “Damn right!”

We cannot continue to have a prison system that is 108% to 120% over capacity and 35% understaffed. A prison system that ranks highest in the nation per capita in imprisonment of women and men. A prison system that has an African American population of 30%-35% when we constitute less than 8% of the state population.

We cannot have legislators who, for whatever reason, see the voice of the people (on State Questions 780 and 781) as an uninformed vote, and deem it necessary to take it upon themselves to do what’s best for them as some helpless child. I have experienced that enough in my lifetime.

Moses had one sermon every day he went to Pharaoh’s house and it was simply, “Let My People Go!” I have one sermon as given to me by the citizens of Oklahoma: “We Have Spoken!”

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

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