March 2018 Editorial Winner

What goes around comes around
Wayne Trotter, Countywide & Sun

Most politicians like the phrase “what goes around comes around.” It is easy to understand and fits nicely in whatever Mr. or Ms. Politico may be supporting or opposing this particular week. If you don’t use it more than two times an hour or wisely change audiences every 15 minutes, you can make the phrase sound downright intelligent, giving you a good shot at reaching that political dream of fooling most of the people most of the time.
Yeah! You bet!
But when you get down in the wallow of Oklahoma politics, you quickly begin to understand that what goes around really does come around and sometimes packs a terrific wallop. State Question 640, the 1992 constitutional amendment, is a perfect case in point.
SQ 640 was offered to and adopted by the general public in 1992 in response to HB 1017, Oklahoma’s landmark education bill passed by a Democratic legislature in 1990 and signed by Henry Bellmon, a Republican governor. State Rep. Steve Lewis, a Democrat from Pottawatomie County and speaker of the House at that time, was a strong supporter of 1017.
Okay. Got the players down?
So two years after 1017 became law, forces which resist taxation in practically any form placed SQ 640 on the Oklahoma ballot. The count was 373,143 in favor and 290,978 opposed. For several reasons, that decision 26 years ago has tied Oklahoma government and the Oklahoma Legislature in knots.
Guess what? We don’t know which way the original sponsors of 640 were tilting but odds are they leaned Republican. After all, they were fighting for lower taxes and they did something about it.
But now, almost three decades later, Republicans control both houses of the legislature.
In fact, the Republicans control every state office. The Democrats, who ruled Oklahoma for most of the first 100 years, are reduced to just more than 25 percent of the House of Representatives and even less than 25 percent of the State Senate.
What goes around comes around.
And guess what 640 froze into the state constitution back in 1992? That amendment set the approval level at 75 percent, which means that any political party with 25 percent has a veto.
What goes around comes around … and you’d better believe it!
The people of Oklahoma need to understand this: If nothing is done about SQ 640, this state will become increasingly ungovernable as time goes on. Already Oklahoma has suffered through several years of institutional famine. Under these circumstances, it will not get better. It will only get worse.
Why? Because a state that is unable to mold a revenue package that will support its programs including its schools and pay all its employees decent salaries is an unsustainable entity. Oklahoma is close to that. At one time, this state was able to write off its bad years against its good years — otherwise known as oil boom days. Not any more, friends. Not any more.
If Oklahoma isn’t in crisis, it is very close. The firmly Republican legislature has played around the edges but has yet to take the bold steps that are demanded. Even though Gov. Mary Fallin has offered reasonable taxation alternatives the last several years, the legislature has not responded favorably. At this point, it is not alarmist to say that Oklahoma is on the verge of serious trouble.
Meanwhile, with one seat out of every four, the Democrats enjoy veto power on taxation measures in the House of Representatives. Why? Because SQ 640 hands them that.
And you know what else? What goes around comes around.

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