Oklahoma Revenue Problem Becomes A Structural Issue

Don’t expect taxes on fossil fuel production to improve Oklahoma’s financial situation much anytime soon, according to some predictions.

Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller laid out grim news this week about declining tax collections again for the month of June, but he did note the gross production taxes on fossil fuels “. . . have risen slightly for two months in a row . . .” This led at least one local media outlet to herald that news as an “industry turnaround.”

But not so fast. Some analysts are predicting oil could go under $40 a barrel after the summer driving season, and peak oil demand—the concept the world has reached the summit of its fossil fuel use—means Oklahoma faces a major financial structural crisis that could conceivably linger for years. I remain unsure why more people aren’t discussing this.

Miller’s numbers continue to stagger. June collections were down 7.4 percent or $74 million compared to last year. Miller noted that this is the 14th consecutive month that tax revenues declined from the previous year. Oklahoma, Miller pointed out, is officially in a recession. Overall, 2016 receipts declined by 7.2 percent or $860 million, according to Miller. This is in a state with an approximate $7 billion annual budget.

The declining revenues have led to major cuts to state agencies. Funding for higher education, for example, was cut nearly 16 percent. Funding for K-12 education took a smaller hit, but this came after years of cuts. State agencies, such as the Department of Human Services, have taken drastic measures to survive the budget crisis, including a freeze on child care subsidies, which has now been lifted. In short, the state remains in a financial free fall.

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Was KD Decision A Political Statement?

Kevin Durant’s decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder to play ball for the Golden State Warriors generated a maximum amount of social media chatter over the holiday. It was way too much. Why on a major holiday? Couldn’t all this sports hoopla wait one day?

Some here see Durant as some type of traitor and coward for some reason. I don’t even know what those terms mean in this context. Some argued he’s trading “legacy” for a chance at a championship “ring.” Okay, maybe. It’s obvious in some sense, but what does legacy really mean to a young man, especially when it comes to Oklahoma City? Maybe he doesn’t want his legacy to be Oklahoma City. Some wondered why Oklahomans don’t pay as much attention to the funding problems facing education here as they do to a star athlete. (I like this, of course, as a college professor.) Some just brushed it off as this is just what happens in big-league sports, and, well, Okies should just get used to it now that we’re in the big leagues. That’s true enough at the most basic level, but, again, so completely obvious.

Then there’s the storyline popping up that the on-court performance of Russell Westbrook somehow made KD leave. I’m not buying that.

Obviously, I don’t think Durant is a traitor or coward or whatever pejorative, and there’s nothing especially wrong with talking about sports and venting. Maybe it eases the pain of living in this extremely flawed place. The heat index was over 100 yesterday and will be today as well. The earthquakes keep coming because of fracking. I can go on. As long as no one goes off the rails here completely with the Durant decision, and a few people have and will, what’s the issue? It will pass, folks.

But some of us, including myself, couldn’t help but note that Durant’s decision may well have included some political gestures or semi-gestures (perhaps, at least a hint) that the corporate media failed to directly address. Maybe, just maybe, Durant didn’t want to be the face and the most-recognized person from a place that often makes the news for the antics of its right-wing politicians connected at least in the past to the team's principal owner.

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Planksy Brings Sharklers, Sparklers

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Arrrrr! So what does a five-letter Arrrrr mean? It means it’s none other than Planksy, yer pirate turkey sailing in with me fowly friends to deliver the sharklers and sparklers this Fourthy holiday. Arrr! Me and me birds are coming up the Oklahoma river, and then making a turn up the Bricktown Canal. Ahoy, methinks I spy a bar or five. Stop, oarsbirds!

So you know the drift. If yer a smarmy landlubber, yer get me sharklers and a little swimmy time with the toothie fishies after yer walk the plank. If yer possess the bold, courageous soul of a pirate turkey, yer get me sparklers, which come with a trip on board me vessel and the sweet partaking of rum from me special barrel, Planksy Reserve 46. Let the horn piping and dancing commence. Arrr!

Sharklers. Me first sharklers of the day go to nearly each and every Republican legislator in the state, rascally landlubbers, who cut funding to higher education by nearly 16 percent and continue to cut funding for K-12 education. Talk about yer draining of the brain. Avast, me fellow pirate turkeys, these bilge rats stink up the boat, if yer get me drift, a leaky one at that. Voters should move smartly now in November.

Sparklers. Me first sparklers of the day go to any state legislator that voted against the education cuts and spoke out against them. It’s a brave move in a place filled with rapscallions with broken compasses and ruffled feathers and ugly gobblers. Come aboard! Drink it up! Aye, dance, dance, dance! Fiddle player, turn it up.

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