Week two was another week devoted to hearing Senate bills in the various committees. It amazes me that with the projected $900 million shortfall in the state collections, that senators and representatives are continuing to file bills that will require substantial money that we do not have.

Two bills that really disturb me are the bill to give the teachers a $9,000 pay raise over three years and a bill that would increase the longevity pay for the state employees. On the surface this is great legislation, however, it is a pipe dream and gives the wrong message to our educators and state employees. I am and have been a strong proponent for a pay raise for the teachers and the state employees.

However, with the tax cuts and the effects of the recession hitting Oklahoma, the money is not there to fund this legislation.

As I have mentioned previously, many pieces of legislation are filed so that legislators can tell their constituents that I voted for that bill, knowing full well that it will not be funded and enacted into law.

There have been several news articles discussing the budget and economy in Oklahoma. One article indicated that as a result of the Republicans taking control of the House and implementing conservative fiscal policies, the gross production tax has doubled. Well folks, the gross production tax has brought in more money the past few years, however, it is because the price of natural gas was above $8.00 per mcf, not the conservative fiscal policies (tax cuts) as alluded to in the article. The Oklahoman, February 9, 2009.

Another article discussed the fact that one cannot blame the income tax cuts for the current fiscal crisis. The article discusses that states with higher taxes than Oklahoma are having trouble balancing their budgets. The Oklahoman, February 12, 2009.

Well those states, California, New York and Minnesota are much larger states than Oklahoma and have not had the luxury of having a gross production tax like Oklahoma to sustain us. But for the tax cuts the past three years, we would not have the $900 million shortfall and would be able to give our teachers and support personnel the pay raise we promised them, give the state workers the pay raise they deserve, repair our worn out roads and bridges, have adequate health care and the list goes on and on.

Although not much going on the Senate floor this week, we had plenty of activity and visitors. Tuesday was Higher Ed day at the Capitol and we had students from EOSC and President Steven Smith and several faculty members. Larry Morgan and Cody Barlow, students from Hartshorne, were here with Seminole State College. Home School students visited the Capitol and visited with their legislators and discussed their agenda.

The Higher Ed students had a presentation in the House Chamber about the importance of education and Valerie Lewis, teacher from Stigler related why education was important and how she made many sacrifices to get her degree and become a great teacher. Her daughter Jessica, a student at Carl Albert State College in Poteau, gave her perspective as a student as to the importance of an education.

Wednesday was county elected official’s day and I visited with members of the Pittsburg County Clerks office, Assessors Office, County Commissioners, the Latimer County Clerks office, County Clerk and County Commissioners, and the newly-elected Sequoyah County Court Clerk and County Commissioner. Career Tech had representatives from the Kiamichi Technology Center in McAlester and Wilburton. Dr. Doug Alud from McAlester dropped by on Dentist Day at the Capitol

Please come by my capitol office, Room 528 or call 405-521-5604 or in Hartshorne, 918-297-2501 or 918-297-2890.

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