Istook Pushes TABOR Measure



Who Is Really Against TABOR?

So where does the state’s right-wing power structure really stand on the TABOR issue?

Ernest Istook image

U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, who is running for governor here, recently came out for the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights’ measure that would limit the growth of the state government’s budget to a formula tied to inflation and population. A similar measure decimated the Colorado economy and education systems, and voters there recently rescinded it.

Meanwhile, what the Associated Press termed a “Who’s Who” of Oklahoma business people, many with ties to conservative politicians and causes, filed a lawsuit weeks ago to keep a TABOR amendment off the November ballot in Oklahoma

Istook, according to a news article on his Web site, speaking to a group of Republicans Saturday said he supported the philosophy of TABOR and would lead efforts to ensure the measure is on the ballot in the future. Istook made the remarks as he criticized the budget agreement recently announced by state officials, according to the story.

A petition drive to put the measure on the ballot has been completed, but the business big shots have filed a lawsuit against it challenging its validity. The big shots include the chief executive officers of Kerr-McGee, Devon, and Chesapeake. One Chesapeake executive, Aubrey McClendon, once donated $250,000 to a group that helped get Republican Tom Coburn elected to the U.S. Senate.

In addition, The Daily Oklahoman’s editorial page has come out against the proposed TABOR measure, and the conservative Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) has stopped making it one of the organization’s premier issues as it once did.

So here are three speculations about Istook’s statement: (1) Istook knows he is not going to get major campaign support from the business people who signed onto the lawsuit to stop TABOR, or (2) he is trying to have it both ways in terms of political support from the state’s power structure and those Okie Republican extremists who think any form of government, including education, is communism in action, or (3) many of those named in the lawsuit really do not care about the issue, and it matters nothing to them what Istook says about it.

The reality is that Istook’s support for TABOR shows just what will happen if he is elected governor. The Republicans now hold a majority in the House, and they expect to win the state Senate this year. With the TABOR-supporting Istook as governor and with a Republican-dominated legislature, it will only be a matter of time before the state adopts some type of measure that will prevent the adequate growth of the state budget. This is in a state that has chronic education and infrastructure underfunding.

Add this to Istook’s ideas about intertwining government and religion and you have a full-fledged Okie disaster on your hands. What a spectacle it could all be and just in time for the Oklahoma Centennial, too.

Fortunately, Governor Brad Henry remains a formidable candidate for any Republican gubernatorial candidate, including Istook’s major opponent Bob Sullivan.

Guarantee Oklahoma Teacher Raises!

The Oklahoma Education Association wants to make sure teachers are guaranteed the $3,000 raises that are part of the recent budget agreement.

According to the OEA Web site, “If the salary increases go through the state funding formula, districts which pay above the state minimum will not be obligated to meet the mandate. That’s why the Legislature needs to approve a budget with guaranteed raises.”

OEA has a legitimate argument. Legislators need to make sure the raises are guaranteed. The state needs to make a consistent effort—year-after-year—to raise teacher salaries to at least regional averages. These should be across-the-board raises that help lift the overall wage structure for teachers.

Okie Funk hereby decrees that teachers, not oil or natural gas reserves, remain the state’s most important natural resources.

Botched Occupation

Prepare yourself for a long, hot summer of despair as the Iraq occupation continues to worsen. The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi means nothing to the insurgency’s strength despite what you see and hear on television these days. The Iraq debacle will live in historical infamy as one of America’s worst foreign policy endeavors ever.

Meanwhile, American soldiers and innocent Iraqi citizens will continue to die on a regular basis this summer, Cindy Sheehan will set up a Camp Casey in Crawford, and the Bush government and the Republican-dominated Congress will refuse to listen to a vast majority of American citizens who have had enough with the occupation. Oh yeah, more information about the massacre at Haditha will emerge, other atrocities committed by American soldiers will be reported, and the Guantanamo Bay torture facility will continue to be in the news.

All of this—plus those skyrocketing gasoline prices and growing inflation—has been brought to you by the GOP.

Teacher Raise

I am all for teachers getting raises, but if a district pays more than required, is then required to give the raise on top of that, want they quit paying above the minimum at some point? Since the legislature is not fully funding the payraise they are mandating?