BY DAVID PERRYMAN
“I want to sing and dance. I want to sing and dance. I want to be a pirate in the Pirates of Penzance. Wear me silver buckle slippers and me tight shiny pants. I want to sing and dance.”
Lobbyists representing corporate interests readily accommodate with daily lunches and nightly lavish four-course dinners. The make-believe pirates enjoy “dinner theatre” throughout session and two or three times each year groups like ALEC channel corporate dollars and influence to take the show on the road to resort hotel junkets in places like San Diego, Savannah and Scottsdale.
All the “pirates” have to do in return is deliver the booty. Year in and year out, lobbyists systematically and relentlessly pursue their plan to make their clients’ businesses more “profitable.”
A tax credit here and a tax rebate there. Lower the gross production tax. Cut income taxes for the wealthy. Decrease what an insurance company has to pay to an injured worker. Cap what an insurance company must to pay for a doctor’s mistake. As a result, corporate profits increase and income inequality gaps do, too.
But there is no systematic plan to protect the retirement of teachers, firemen and other state employees. No one is on guard to ascertain that state revenues exist to hire drivers’ license examiners, police officers or prison guards. Pay increases and cost of living adjustments never arrive.
Because of falling revenues brought on by cuts in corporate taxes, income taxes and gross production taxes, in 2015 the pirates in tight shiny pants, passed HB 2244, plundering the major funding source for state and county roads and bridges.
Facing what appears to be a $1 billion deficit in the current fiscal year, the pirates with the silver buckle slippers refuse to delay another one-quarter percent income tax cut for the wealthy.
College students, already staggering under tens of thousands of dollars of tuition debt, must incur more tuition debt because the higher education appropriation was plundered to the tune of another $24 million.
Last year a senator attempted to raid the teacher retirement fund to give teachers a raise. He apparently did not consider where the funds would come from the next year. This year, another senator proposes raiding the Healthy Oklahoma-Tobacco Settlement Fund for that purpose. Will they ever become fiscally responsible?
Draconian tax cuts have left our state without sufficient revenue to function. And instead of doing the hard work of making sure that those that destroy our roads and companies – that believe that they are “above paying taxes” – do indeed pay their fair share of taxes, Oklahoma’s legislative leaders simply “wear the costume” and take their marching orders from the real pirates.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, serves District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives