Jamison Faught

MuskogeePolitico/OCPA: Coburn, Keating, and Parman Write Letter to Lawmakers

From OCPA: “Earlier today, former United States Senator Tom Coburn, former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating, and former Oklahoma Secretary of State Larry Parman sent a letter to Oklahoma lawmakers. In it, the three conservative leaders urged lawmakers to finally right-size government, pointing out that Oklahoma is hurting because Oklahomans are hurting.”

Here is the letter:

Dear Oklahoma Policymakers,

Ronald Reagan once wisely warned: “In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.” About taxes and spending, he said, “The problem is not that people are taxed too little, the problem is that government spends too much.” These words of wisdom apply directly to fiscal policies being debated in Oklahoma today.

Take, for example, the last several legislative sessions. Numerous lobbyists for special interests and numerous government executives have worked to focus the discussion on how to take more money from Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens, from working Oklahoma families, and from small businesses and job creators.

Each session, the discussion has focused on cries for more revenue, money to be taken from Oklahomans by their government.

The reality, though, is that Oklahomans are hurting—due in large part to the significant price declines in oil and to the failures of the Obama administration’s economic policies and regulations. The Oklahoma Tax Commission reports that from 2014 to 2015 Oklahomans lost more than $13 billion in taxable income. Further, from FY-2015 to FY-2016, Oklahomans cut their purchases subject to state sales and use tax by $4.1 billion just to survive. From September 2015 to September 2016, fully 21,800 oil and gas and manufacturing jobs were cut.

Given what Oklahomans are facing, now more than ever is the time for policymakers to steel themselves and get about the tough work of reforming Oklahoma’s government. This means focusing funding on critical core functions while working to implement efficiencies. It’s time to craft a state budget that respects Oklahoma families’ budgets.

Now more than ever, policymakers must deliver on their campaign promises to right-size government and adjust it to the current tax burden borne by Oklahomans.

During stern times like these, it is unwise to fall for the trap that is state-level “tax-reform”—when this really means raising taxes on Oklahomans and permanently cementing unreformed state spending so that government can avoid the hard choices Oklahomans have to make every day. Policymakers should especially resist increasing tax burdens on Oklahomans while a lack of transparency in agency spending still exists.

Policymakers should work tirelessly until all expenditures of every state agency are reviewed by our elected legislators. No state agency should hire lobbyists or staff with state funds in order to lobby for even more taxpayer money. Sound and fiscally conservative policy must always consider reforms and prioritizing spending. The people of Oklahoma have spoken clearly in favor of this approach. Most state office holders have earned their offices by voicing support of these principles.

Some claim that recent special-election results show that policymakers aren’t taxing their constituents enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. Voters will reward those who keep their promises, who work tirelessly to rein in the bureaucracy and special interests—and who carry out their duties and personal lives with moral integrity. When policymakers break promises, avoid reining in the bureaucracy, and have moral failings, none should be surprised when they themselves and those who claim to wear their political colors suffer electoral defeat.

During this special session, those who claim the principles and label of Ronald Reagan must act on their promises. Those principles reject all tax increases and efforts to generate more revenue during times like these. State reports and certified revenue documents show that lawmakers have already passed legislation which increased annual revenues available for appropriation by more than $500 million over the last three legislative sessions.

It is time to dig in to eradicate crony capitalism. It is time to rein in unreformed spending. It is time for real, market-driven Medicaid reforms and innovative health care spending. It is time to be honest about non-instructional growth in common and higher education. It is time to implement government-wide business process improvements and reform outdated government structures.

Policymakers must make the same difficult choices being made by the most vulnerable, by working Oklahoma families, and by small businesses and other job creators in Oklahoma.

Onward,

Tom Coburn
Former United States Senator

Frank Keating
Former Oklahoma Governor

Larry Parman
Former Oklahoma Secretary of State and Secretary of Commerce

MuskogeePolitico: OK Supreme Court Justice Joseph Watt to Retire

Supreme Court Justice Joseph Watt to Retire

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today received and accepted a letter from Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Joseph Watt stating his intention to retire at the end of this year.

Watt, justice for the 9th Supreme Court Judicial District, wrote that his retirement will take effect Dec. 31.

Watt, of Altus, began his judicial service in 1985, when he was appointed special district judge for Jackson County. He was elected associated district judge for Jackson County in 1986.

In 1991, then-Gov. David Walters named Watt as his general counsel. He was appointed by Walters to the Oklahoma Supreme Court on May 17, 1992, and is in his 26th year of service on the high court. He served two terms as chief justice, from 2003 until 2007.

“Having spent almost half of my entire life serving in the judicial branch of government, the past 25½ years on the Supreme Court have been the most rewarding of my entire life,” Watt said. “As the new year dawns, I look forward to beginning the next chapter in my life spending more quality time with my grandchildren, traveling with my wife, Cathy, and taking active retired status beginning Jan. 1, 2018.”

Continue reading….

Conservative leaders urge Oklahoma politicians to protect taxpayers

Conservative leaders urge Oklahoma politicians to protect taxpayers

September 28, 2017

Dear Governor and State Lawmakers,

We are a coalition of conservative citizens, many of us serving in leadership of state or local organizations, who write to urge you to address the need for more consolidation and other efficiencies in all areas of state government and to resist raising taxes on your constituents.

Many Oklahoma families and businesses are struggling and have been forced to reduce their own spending. Indeed, Oklahomans lost more than $13 billion in taxable income and reduced purchases by $4.1 billion in one year alone when oil prices collapsed.

And yet, Oklahoma’s total state government spending is at an all-time high. The state is now on track to spend more money next year—more than $17.9 billion—than at any time in our history. If you believe that certain state services are not adequately funded, we urge you to prioritize spending rather than raise taxes.

“Limited government” and “lower taxes” have been winning campaign messages in Oklahoma over the last decade. Some candidates have even made written promises to oppose and vote against (or veto) “any and all efforts to increase taxes.” We encourage you to stay true to these principles and to oppose efforts to increase the burden of government on hard-working Oklahoma families.

Sincerely,

Drunk on cash? TSET promotes nightclubs, bars, drag shows

OCPA’s Center for Investigative Journalism revealed some shocking news this week about the spending habits of Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET). TSET is a state agency created to fund programs that help people quit smoking and help pay for the costs of smoking-related health care.

TSET was formed as a result of the state’s lawsuit against tobacco companies in the 1990s, and currently sits on an endowment worth over $1 billion. It brings in and spends about $50 million every year on tobacco cessation campaigns or health issues related to tobacco use. Or rather, that’s what TSET is supposed to use the money for.

Former Teacher of the Year & Small Businessman Announces for State Senate District 27

Seiling, Oklahoma – Travis Templin has announced his candidacy for State Senate District 27. A special election will be held on December 12th, 2017 to fill the open seat. Templin, a teacher and coach at Seiling Public Schools, believes it is time for a State Senator to step up and start doing what’s right. Northwestern Oklahoma has always been Templin’s home. He was born in Alva, attended Woodward and Gage Public Schools, graduated from Boise City High School, and then Northwestern Oklahoma State University in 1998 where he received his Bachelor of Science in Education.

“Growing up in Northwestern Oklahoma taught me the values of hard work, family, & a strong
community. We have got to have a strong voice to represent our district – not the out of state special
interest groups trying to control our government. We also don’t need to elect another career politician,” said Travis Templin. Templin was awarded “Teacher of the Year” in 2016 and his wife, Amanda, also a school teacher, received the award in 2017.

“I’ve known Travis and his family for a long time. You never really know what will go across a legislator’s desk, but you can get to know their heart and what motivates them – Travis Templin is a man of integrity, honor, and character and I know we can count on him to do the right thing,” said Kirk Pittman, a member of Travis Templin’s Advisory Council.

Travis and Amanda, have two children – Kylie and Kaden and one grandson, Karter. While Templin has spent most of his life in public education, he also has experience in agriculture and oil & gas, with oversight of large budgets. “There is no reason for our state to be creating new taxes. We are taxed too much already. The private sector creates jobs, opportunities, and the best path for success – not the government,” says Templin, “It is time we start prioritizing our resources and best appropriating the funds our state is given by its taxpayers.”

Templin is a Conservative Republican who believes in cutting wasteful spending and stopping
corruption. He believes in balancing a better budget for years ahead so businesses can thrive and the
economy can grow. “Agencies need audited and held accountable for the funds they receive. Wasteful
spending should stop. We must reform education and invest in infrastructure. We must also take care of rural healthcare and emergency management services,” stated Travis Templin.

For more information, please visit TravisTemplin.com.

So far, the other announced candidates are State Rep. Casey Murdock and OKGOP National Committeewoman Carolyn McLarty.

Richardson Calls Breakdown at Special Session “Lack of Conservative Leadership”

Tulsa, OK, September 26, 2017 – Gary Richardson called on the Governor, the Speaker of the House, and the President of the Senate to come together to bring a conservative solution to the special session in the midst of the House going into recess over the failure of a clear plan.

“What happened today is the result of frustration from a lack of conservative leadership from Governor Fallin and Lt. Governor Todd Lamb, ” said Richardson.  “We have the Governor threatening to veto anything that isn’t a tax increase, and a Lt. Governor who sits on the sideline while the Senate he can take over anytime as President of the Senate proposed a $1.50 cigarette tax increase and a 6-cent increase on the gasoline tax.”

Richardson then explained how the Oklahoma Lt. Governor is the one constitutionally in charge of the State Senate.  “According to Article 5, Section 28 of the State Constitution, the Lt. Governor is the one who presides over the State Senate,” said Richardson.  “Lamb could fulfill his constitutional powers as President of the Senate and block any tax increases.  Yet the silence of Lamb is deafening.”

“Luckily, a core group of conservative Republicans who understand that we have a spending problem and not a revenue problem are standing strong against any tax increase, which led to the recess of the State House today,” said Richardson.   “It’s time we have a Governor and Lt. Governor who will join these conservatives and lead on the Republican principles they campaigned on.”

Gary Richardson is a Republican candidate for Governor of Oklahoma.  He is a former U.S. Attorney appointed by President Ronald Reagan and a founding member of the law firm, Richardson, Richardson, and Boudreaux.  Gary and his wife, Lanna, reside in Tulsa. Together, they have five children and eleven grandchildren. They are active members of South Tulsa Baptist Church.  Learn more at GaryRichardson.org.

MuskogeePolitico: UPDATE: GOP Gubernatorial Candidates on the Special Session

I reached out to the GOP gubernatorial candidates for their take on the special session (which began yesterday). Here are the answers of the candidates who replied to my inquiry, listed in order of response – Gary Jones, Todd Lamb, and Gary Richardson (UPDATE: Dan Fisher has now responded):

1. What do you hope to see legislators do during the special session?