August 2017 Editorial Winner

Half-Truths and deception is always inexcusable
Paul Laubach, The Hennessey Clipper

Last week the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared a “cessation fee” on cigarettes passed by the legislature unconstitutional.
Why?
Because if it looks like a tax increase, walks like a tax increase, and smells like a tax increase, it is a tax increase.
The court agreed in a 9-0 vote!
Tax increases cannot be passed under the Oklahoma Constitution without a 75% majority vote of the House and the Senate thanks to State Question 640. Ever since 640’s passage the legislature has tried to find deceptive ways to skirt around the law that was voted in by the people.
The court wisely didn’t buy the story on this whopper attempt by state lawmakers.
Oklahoma’s Supreme Court Justices should be commended for deciding quickly and decisively that back door half-truths and deceptions won’t be tolerated in trying to circumvent the law.
One can argue the merits and difficulties of State Question 640 all they want, but until it is repealed or amended, it is the law and the will of the people. Now there will be a $215 million budget shortfall that must be dealt with.
Blame and finger pointing will be countertraded by each party at every angle.
Several arguments are already being floated about whether to have a special session, or just let agencies deal with the additional cuts.
Republicans will have a hard time explaining why they voted for the $215 million revenue measure to begin with if they didn’t think that state agencies needed the money.
The most important lesson that should be learned as a result of this self-inflicted crisis should be this.
Honesty and transparent dealings, no matter how difficult the issue or task, is paramount in matters of policy, law, and governance in a free and open democracy.
When people’s lives and future are at stake, our government must be held accountable when it makes foolish partisan or biased mistakes.
Oklahoma lawmakers have, at a minimum, cost taxpayers a lot of money to correct a foolish game of gimmick policy enactment.
And worse, legislative leaders and the Governor have jeopardized the lives and future of
Oklahoma’s children in an act of bad faith and pure negligence in executing their elected duties.
Oklahoma’s high court rebuked such debauchery and stood firm in its intolerance for half-truths and deception, which as a matter of law and policy should always be considered inexcusable.

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