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Parent legislative group visits legislators, conversation turns to budget issues

John Marshall / Red Dirt Report
State Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang) visits with PLAC members in the Health Nut snack bar and Oklahoma State Capitol.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – On Tuesday about 15 members from the Parent Legislative Action Committee (PLAC) gathered in the Health Nut snack bar at the State Capitol to meet with State Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang).

Meredith Exline, Edmond School board member and spokesman for the group talked to Red Dirt Report. She became interested in advocating for public education as she realized that a lot of decisions that affect our classroom were at the state level.

She now leads a steering committee for PLAC. The group represents Oklahoma City metro areas including Edmond, Midwest City, Del City, Norman, Putnam City, Yukon, Piedmont, Noble and other central Oklahoma areas.

Exline explained that PLAC is a nonpartisan group whose theme is to increase funding to public education and decrease testing.

They are also concerned with the teacher shortage and how Oklahoma is noncompetitive in teacher salaries.

During the meeting, Osborn dropped by and briefed the group on House Bill 1837. Her bill was going before the House of Representatives members later that morning.

This bill would increase yearly lottery profits when they are over $50 million and funnel them to specific education needs. Osborn wants to skim another $10-$20 million each year from the state lottery profits and earmark those funds for specific education goals. Osborn wants the new funds allocated on a per student basis over the state school systems. Each superintendent will be required to spend the additional funds on science and reading programs. She says this will help kids get high paying aerospace and technical jobs.

Osborn referenced a conversation with the Mustang Oklahoma school superintendent in her district. He looked forward to using the funds for creative learning.

He wanted to target 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade kids and buy new software, pay for kids to go to robotics camp, and pay for speakers from NASA. All of this to get kids excited about a career in tech, or a college path, and other science or reading projects.

During Osborn’s briefing, she went off script after a few questions from PLAC members about the budget. She touched on the budget issues and broke the news that leaders were discussing sales and service tax hikes behind the scenes.

“We are trying to look at the big picture. What if we did a package of two or three things? We are 49th in gasoline tax, 50th in diesel, and we have low property tax rates. We are a very low-taxed state. We are all Oklahomans and at some point, we are going to all have to share a little investment to get what we want for our state,” she said.

She also accused the Oklahoma wind industry of unfairly using lobbyists to protect their tax credits.

When Red Dirt Report asked Osborn about what she thought of oil industry's tax credits she said, “Gross production tax needs to come to the table, and that is all I can say.” She then followed up with, “Here is what I can say, those negotiations are being discussed with some people in the industry, all of those things are being discussed.”

During Rep. Scott Inman’s (D-Del City) weekly Facebook availability Red Dirt Report asked him to explain the differences between the wind industry tax credits and the oil and gas industry tax credits.

“Oil and gas industry has about 13 different tax credits they take advantage of. The wind energy has two. I don’t think it is fundamentally fair to say the that the wind industry, which cost the state about $60 million last year, is the one that is on the chopping block but we are going to ignore oil and gas, which just a few years ago, were running about $1.2 billion in gross production tax revenue from the oil and gas industry. After serious oil and gas gross production tax cuts this year we are bringing in about $330 million that is about $800 million or $900 million worth of difference. To say that isn’t hurting the state budget but a $60 million outlay for wind is, is just disingenuous,” he said.

Inman went on to say that during this week's session both tax credits for the wind industry were killed.

Osborn also claimed that the wind industry subsidies were costing the state billions, Inman quoted a $60 million cost to the state in 2016.

Projections by various sources indicated a sharp increase for 2017 and 2018. Last year the wind industry enjoyed a zero-emission tax credit of 0.5-cent per kWh generated. The rebate can be refunded for 85 percent of the value. The other wind industry tax break was an advalourum tax rebate on build outs for the industry.

Osborn presented her HB1837, with a bit of irony as she said, "Very few times do we have a vote that makes a difference, right now if anyone hasn’t read the paper or heard me talk about it, we are in a slight budget crunch. It is going to be a little difficult to get more dollars for education."

HB 1837 passed the House and is on to Senate committees and then a Senate vote. 

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John Marshall

John Marshall is a videographer and new addition to Red Dirt Report. As he told us: I am...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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