October 2017 Editorial Winenr

Impasse must end
Wayne Trotter, Countywide & Sun

If you sat down and wrote a political novel describing the current gridlock in the Oklahoma Legislature, you’d probably have a hard time selling it. Yes, it would have political conflict. Yes, it would hold the potential of shutting down the government.
Yes, there would be lots of people including a bunch of innocent state employees and schoolteachers dealing with financial worries and perhaps fearing for their jobs and futures. Sob stories are not hard to find in Oklahoma these days.
So what’s missing? Simple. Remember the old Spy Vs. Spy cartoons in Mad Magazine?
That spirit just isn’t there. Today’s best-selling thrillers not only have to be bigger than life, they also must be bigger than North America. Every page is filled with undercover agents with Middle Eastern backgrounds and viable plans to blow up the moon or sink Manhattan Island (all of it, mind you) or something else equally sinister. Turn the page! Who knows what’s next?
It’s hard to picture any of that stuff going on in Downtown OKC, so what you’d probably get for your trouble and months of plotting and typing are a bunch of rejection letters … if that much.
So what is happening at the State Capitol grounds this week? Not much. Just your ordinary post-adjournment dance, Oklahoma style. The Legislature is back in a special session. The Republicans are still firmly in charge and that being the case, the Democrats are still distinctly in the minority.
But there is a difference.
This year, for the first time since the two parties played fruit basket turnover a decade or so ago, the Democrats hold enough seats in the House of Representatives to block the imposition of new taxes. State Question 640, adopted by the voters in 1992, says tax increases must be approved by a 75 percent vote. While the Democrats are over 25 percent by a whisker in the House, their party still doesn’t hold 25 percent in the Senate. No matter. Their slim House “subjority” grants them the power to block … and in politics, that means practically everything.
So what do the Democrats want? They are demanding that this Legislature raise the gross production tax on oil from 2 percent plus to 7 percent. The Republicans so far have met that with a big “No!” The GOP has offered to grant the Democrats a vote in the Legislature where the Republicans hold a 74-26 majority in the House and a 39-9 advantage in the House. You can figure those odds yourself.
All that being said, this impasse nevertheless must come to an end and that end must be reached quickly. Oklahoma simply cannot afford another artificial fiscal crisis.
The system can’t afford that, the schools don’t need anything like that again and the average citizen certainly could do without it. If the two parties can’t agree on the gross production tax, perhaps it should be sent to the voters. Just a suggestion.
It’s time for the Oklahoma Legislature to stop quibbling and start governing,
Wouldn’t that be refreshing?

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