To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Thursday, October 22, 2020

New Observercast

Misplaced Priorities

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BY NORM ROURKE

Other than football, Oklahoma is big on taxes and fees. People coming from other states are overwhelmed with the plethora of taxes and assorted fees Oklahoma devises – that is, after they’ve paid tolls to drive here on terrible roads.

We have taxes on food [one of the most ridiculous of all the taxes], excise taxes on vehicles no matter how many times the same vehicle is sold, tolls on just about every road in the state while the roads are deplorable. The list goes on and on.

Over the years some in the Legislature [those who are more creative and tuned in] have had the guts to introduce a repeal of the food tax. But, as usual, the good old boys and girls vote it down. Do they have a clue what working Oklahomans – especially the working poor – are dealing with today? Food is an essential human need. Why must we be forced to pay taxes on our sustenance?

What about our vehicle excise tax boondoggle? Everyone who takes up residence in Oklahoma [often being transferred here to what few businesses we have left because of our tax structure on business] and registers their vehicles, boat or motor is appalled at the excise tax they pay. And it’s paid over and over and over every time the vehicle, boat or motor are registered. No wonder people circumvent this by forming LLCs in other states with a lesser tax burden on vehicles.

Then we have our road tolls. What a major joke this is. Not only do we pay to drive on crummy roads, we can’t even find a full service rest stop! What a great tourist “attraction” this is. The first thing I’m asked by visitors to our state is: “Why doesn’t Oklahoma have rest stops like other states?” Go figure.

Of course, most of the major roads around Oklahoma City aren’t as bad. After all, we wouldn’t want our pampered legislators to drive on rough roads as they go to lobbyist-sponsored events.

Can’t anyone in the Legislature figure out why we have a sorry education system, why we lose good teachers to other states? Can they understand why businesses are hesitant to move to Oklahoma when they’re inundated with taxes and their employees face tax and fee burdens on everything, then must enroll their kids in low ranking schools?

So how about it legislators? [Please don’t respond with the same tired unoriginal clap trap.]

To coin a well worn phrase: Why can’t you think beyond the box? Why can’t you understand this is 2009 – the 21st Century? Oklahoma is more than having a nationally-rated football team. That’s fine. But there’s more to our state and its people and its needs than a winning football team. It does not make a good school system. It does not pay decent teacher salaries. It does not lessen the tax and fee burden on working Oklahomans. It does not make Oklahoma a business-friendly state.

Oklahoma is a goldmine of intellect, people with a good work ethic, great ideas and so much more.

Perhaps I’m too simplistic. But it seems to me it wouldn’t be too difficult to do some of this. It starts with looking at the needs against income [real … not maybe] and making a priority list for what’s important to improve Oklahoma [besides football].

How about looking at what other states are doing that is successful in moving them forward? We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If it works for others, perhaps it will work for Oklahoma.

Supposedly we have people who know how to get things done. If this is so then kick ‘em in the butt and tell them to get to work for Oklahoma.

Most importantly, we need to get away from the stifling of partisanship. Being a Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal doesn’t make a difference. Doing what’s right for Oklahoma and its people is what’s important. This is the only way we’re going to improve our educational system, rebuild our infrastructure and make sure our tax money is well spent. Playing politics and yammering about conservative or liberal philosophies is a waste of time. It’s a smoke-screen to avoid doing the job.

We need a creative Legislature to unsaddle us of the taxes, fees, tolls and all the other stuff that hinders our lives and weakens our ability get ahead.

In case you don’t get it, Mr. and Ms. Legislator, Oklahomans are suffering in the national recession. They are losing jobs. They are hurting. So why don’t you wake up and do something for the people of Oklahoma?

This isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense.

Norm Rourke lives in Beggs, OK and is an occasional contributor to The Oklahoma Observer

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Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.