Oklahoma Leads Nation In Per Pupil Spending Cuts

It can be terribly disheartening to live in a state that has cut per pupil funding on a percentage basis the most of any state in the years following the 2008 recession just for the negative publicity it creates.

Let’s be clear: Overall, the cuts here are mainly the result of Republican extremism and the disproven idea that tax cuts automatically lead to new economic development or trickle down into the economy growing a larger tax base. The tax-cut, trickle-down ideology, still peddled by Republicans here and elsewhere, is directly responsible for the financial mess here in Oklahoma.

In a report released last week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that Oklahoma has cut per pupil spending in public schools by 26.9 percent from 2008 to 2017, which is the current fiscal budget year. That’s an incredible number.

For some perspective, the state with the second highest cuts to per pupil spending is Alabama, which “only” cut 14.2 percent, during those same years. Contrast that as well with the fact that North Dakota has raised per pupil spending by 27.2 percent from 2008 to 2017.

The report notes that many factors have led to steep declines in school funding in many states, but here’s an important paragraph in the report:

Not only did many states avoid raising new revenue after the recession hit, but some enacted large tax cuts, further reducing revenues. Five of the eight states with the biggest cuts in general school funding since 2008 ― Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin ― have also cut income tax rates in recent years.

Republicans and their apologists here continue to insist that the downturn in the oil and gas industry is to blame for Oklahoma’s current budget nightmare, but the recent income tax cuts that primarily benefit the rich and tax breaks given to energy companies during the fracking mini-boom here has made the real difference in the magnitude of the cuts to education.

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No On State Question 776

Image of Tina Kelly

Even the normally conservative Tulsa World has come out against State Question 776, which does nothing more than what most people say will “enshrine” the death penalty in the Oklahoma Constitution as a symbolic gesture.

Here’s the newspaper’s insightful editorial opposing the ballot question. The main point of the editorial is that the proposed constitutional amendment adds nothing new to established law and that no one can be sure what the unintended consequences could be if the measure passes.

In fact, it could even delay or end executions here as its legality is later determined by courts.

SQ 776 would put language in the state constitution that basically says Oklahoma has the right to execute people however it wants—boil them, flay them, shoot them, hang them, electrocute them, gas them—as long as it doesn’t violate the U.S. Constitution. The measure was placed on the ballot by legislators following two gruesome lethal-injection executions that have been described as “botched” and because drugs used in the process are becoming more difficult to obtain.

Here’s the ballot language.

As the World notes, “Whenever the state messes with its death penalty law, it creates a new set of issues for inmates and their lawyers to test in court.”

That’s for sure. The measure would have absolutely no effect on the legality of the death penalty here yet would open the door for all types of legal challenges for people condemned to death. I can’t in good conscience support the sweeping and heinous language in the measure and its general violent, barbaric undertones, but, really, if this makes it into the state constitution it might well end the death penalty here.

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Inhofe Throws All In With Crazy Trump

It’s no surprise the extremist, right-wing U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe is unequivocal in his support for GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, but it doesn’t make it any easier for rational, intelligent people to live here.

Inhofe, an ultra-conservative Republican, recently joined Trump’s National Security Advisory Council, according to media reports, and our 81-year-old Senator is giving the candidate his great advice:

Mine was an effort to try to simplify the issues, so that they're easy and he doesn't have to get into the weeds...we'll find out if it works.

Of course, keeping Trump out of the “weeds” and urging him to “simplify the issues” is ultimately ambiguous and the local corporate media here won’t challenge Inhofe on a comment like this, but I guess what Inhofe means is that Trump needs to stop saying all the crazy and stupid stuff that he says and speak in more nuanced sound bites. But, as we all know, this is crazy trying to stop crazy.

We have a global warming denier and anti-LGBTQ homophobe trying to stop a serial sexual harasser of women and a compulsive liar from going ballistic in the media. Good luck with that.

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