Sunday, May 14, 2017

College Welfare & The Misguided Priorities of State

  Oklahoma has some well-run private universities. But they operate at  a huge disadvantage, because our state legislature is undermining their very existence. How can they keep a campus operational when their faculty pays taxes which fund their own competition?
  About one out of every six dollars that the legislature spends, is a welfare payment to our state-operated colleges. 
  Oklahoma has a huge industry in colleges. But we have far more of them on the public welfare rolls than in the private sector. The legislature is just one of the funding sources that colleges aggressively tap into. Federal 'PAL' grants are perhaps the largest welfare checks that universities live off of.  Big corporate benefactors, federal research grants, and direct tuition payments are some of the major ways that these behemoths continue to feed off of.

Abandoning Constitutional Duties

  There are some constitutional duties that the state is derelict in attending to. Some of those mandates are costing our people dearly. Our mental health mandates are a glaring example. We have turned away the seriously ill. It has resulted in our county jails being overcrowded with the psychotic populations.  It is the worst affront to civil rights that we have endured in the past 50 years. Our own legislature has to own this issue.

 That failure is now costing the county and city taxpayers far more than when the state had a more humane way of restoring the seriously ill at a lower cost.  There are scores of dead Oklahomans every year because the psychotic are denied public mental health intervention. what few state mental hospitals that we still operate, are perpetually full. We are near a catastrophe in our public health.

A Malignancy Of State

  We have a common education system which is crying out for major reforms. But the patient is refusing any tests, consultations, dietary adjustments, or therapeutic treatment. She just wants more money!  If the legislature does not ascribe a course of corrective action, there will not be a way to survive the cancer that is eating away most of our state budget.  I refer to it as a cancer because of how it eats the healthy cells of our figurative state body. the human body needs healthy lungs; but when the lung tissue weighs more than the rest of the organs combined, you have a malignancy which can kill you. If the constitutional convention of 1906 had envisioned the possibility of education costing the state over half of it's appropriated wealth each year, they would have created constitutional safeguards against such a malignancy.

Roads We Can Pay For

 Infrastructure is a perpetual expense. But the state must see the Turnpike Authority as another layer of government which is milking the state dry before they can even write a check to the Tax Commission. The very existence of such 'authorities' is an admission of failure of state government. All of these authorities and ventures into commerce need to be phased out. If the state can't produce the necessary transportation network, we have a fundamental problem that we cannot kick down the road. 
  Oklahoma is over 100 years old. We no longer have any justification for priming any pumps. Our recreation industry is harmed by the existence of state-run lodges. Our utility  providers should be competing at market-set pricing. Whether we keep the Grand River Dam utility or not, it still needs to be pricing it's product (electricity rates) at market rates. Otherwise we are effectively punishing the parts of the state that are paying for power at market rates.
  Tourism agencies are yet another form of corporate welfare. Their functions can and should be run by private sector associations. It is not the duty of the local factory worker, to let the state confiscate his tax dollars for the benefit of the entertainment ventures in our state.

The Oil Taxes

  As long as we are collecting property taxes, it is justifiable to also tax the natural resource holdings in the energy industry. The insanity of taxing our established energy producers at 7%, while taxing the newcomers at 2%, is an insult to our own people. If our aggregate oil tax is 3.1%, then it's proper to tax all produced oil at 3.1% and be done with it. Now if you want to raise that one-time "property tax", You can certainly present your case and let it be challenged philosophically, among the halls of the capitol.

 Better Education At Lower State Costs

 Currently, 70 of our school districts get no state funding. We wish it was 570 of them who were surviving on their own.  But most all of us who are over 50 years old will tell you that we had a better education in the 1970s, with classrooms of 30 students. But even if we had just 21 kids for every teacher (on average), we could pay those teachers $10k more and still save nearly $200 million. It would attract the nation's best educators and also lead to a lot of pink slips for our bottom 20% of current educators.  In 1992, the major state teachers union heavily lobbied to cut class sizes. that did not lead to better teacher pay, but it led to a far bigger teachers union.  It did not improve education because it just created job security for bad educators. (yes, they do exist in Oklahoma).
  Some would say that we don't owe anyone a free education. But I can certainly say that we don't owe anyone a university education.

from Sooner - Editorial

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