Message from MMR
After this past weekend, many of us were looking at our brackets wondering how we missed so many choices for the Sweet 16.
We are approaching one of the most important deadlines at the Oklahoma State Capitol as crossover deadline is this Thursday. Crossover deadline means bills from their body of origin (i.e. House of Representatives and the Senate) must be voted out of that body if they are to continue to move through the process. In many ways, the legislative process is like the NCAA brackets. The strong usually survive but are subject to upsets and the Cinderella bills sometimes make it through the crossover deadline.
Initially, this session there were over 4,000 bills filed. As we approach the deadline with three days of floor hearings remaining there are 835 bills still viable. Expect that number to dwindle significantly come Friday.
There is no clear budget solution available at this juncture, but discussions continue in search of a viable solution. Camps are divided not only along legislative body lines, but inside the respective bodies as well. There are those who believe we have a revenue problem and those that we believe we have a spending problem. Legislative agencies continue to push the revenue problem, insisting taxes must be increased.
A recent study by WalletHub shows Oklahoma is ranked 25th nationally in tax burden placing us squarely in the middle. Oklahoma has mimicked Kansas in that we cut the income tax over the past several years and the state’s general revenue has decreased rather than increased. Unlike Kansas, Oklahoma did not increase taxes on alcohol and cigarettes two years ago. Just this past week, Kansas Governor Brownback called for another increase in both cigarette and alcohol taxes this session and was rebuffed by the Kansas Senate when that proposal was defeated on a vote of 1 aye and 37 nayes. Oklahoma will be wise to learn from the mistakes of our neighbors rather than make the same errors. As the weeks progress into the 2017 legislative session, the legislature will reveal a more clear path toward balancing the budget. However, proposals like Governor Fallin put forward on a sales tax on services face stern opposition from those industries foreseeing a fiscal impact.
Rural versus Urban
Oklahoma, unlike many other states, finds itself divided along rural and urban lines rather than Democrats and Republican lines. Oklahoma also finds itself with a population migration toward the larger metro areas and away from the traditional small towns that were emblematic of days gone by. Today, Oklahoma has over 20 counties with populations less than 15,000. This has led to a decrease in available businesses and services. To wit, read the article from The Oklahoman regarding the decline of rural hospitals.