I don’t necessarily see anything wrong about raising the state’s cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack, but the legislative effort to pass it again shows how Oklahoma is still dependent on small fixes to help shore up its budget.
— Tobacconomics (@Tobacconomics) March 6, 2017
The proposed tax increase would generate around $184 million the first year in a budget of approximately $7 billion, and some $50 million of that would go to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which is a good thing. With additional matching federal funding for health programs the amount of money the tax would generate has the potential to increase incrementally.
The problem though is that part of the mission of the tax is to get people to stop smoking so, if that happened, fewer smokers would mean declining revenue. It’s a tax that seeks its own demise.
In addition, those of us that don’t smoke won’t contribute at all, and smokers would pay a steeper price for their habit. The tax is regressive in that lower-income people, if they smoke, spend more of a percentage proportion of their money for cigarettes. I understand why smokers would oppose the cigarette tax and feel singled out, but the evidence is clear that long-term smoking can and does lead to severe illnesses, such as cancer and emphysema. The nicotine contained in cigarettes is also a highly addictive drug, and it’s difficult to quit. The tax is regressive, but it’s also a public health issue in terms of the overall medical costs to our society.
So it’s a debatable issue with no real answer. Do people have the right to smoke? Of course. But how much of that right infringes on other people in terms of its health costs to our society? This question will never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction, and we know people will continue to smoke in the foreseeable future.
Looming peak oil demand, a world fossil-fuel glut and Republican tax-cut ideology has structurally changed the state of Oklahoma’s revenue collections, resulting in abysmal and embarrassing funding for education, social services, health programs and corrections.
— Carbon Brief (@CarbonBrief) March 19, 2017
Renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power, continue to grow incrementally around the world, lessening the need for fossils fuels, especially to produce electricity. New oil reserves, such as the tar sands in Canada, have been discovered throughout the world in recent decades. Oklahoma, as we all know, has been sustained by the fossil-fuel industry, which now pays a limited amount of production taxes.
The only thing that could push up oil prices, and thus increase production tax revenue on a major level for Oklahoma, would be a seismic disruption in the fossil fuel supply chain caused by a world war or at least a major conflict involving several countries. Obviously, that’s nothing to wish for, although I bet there are people who have their fingers crossed it will happen.
Meanwhile, most Oklahoma Republican politicians, whether they actually believe it or not, push the idea that tax cuts actually help the economy by increasing state revenues, but that’s not the truth. The truth is the state currently faces an $878 million shortfall in an average budget of approximately $7 billion. The truth is this comes after income tax cuts that primarily benefited wealthy people that then led to huge cuts to state agencies, including our education systems, in recent years. The truth is the state has cut public education funding on a percentage basis the most of any state in the country since 2008.
It’s difficult not see the state at a huge breaking point. The Trump presidency will make it worse. More deregulation of the fossil-fuel industry and ending particular rules on energy companies related to the environment, which the Trump administration supports, will only accelerate global warming and pollution, and possibly the number and intensity of earthquakes here, while increasing the glut of oil, which drives prices even further down.
It took conservatives in the Oklahoma Legislature several years, but they are now likely to pass an anti-science bill, which is a “strengths and weaknesses” measure that will mean schools can dilute the teaching of evolution and other scientific facts in the state’s public classrooms.
"Meanwhile, the go-to source for news on education legislation, the National Center for Science Education, has… https://t.co/A0mO7V8NP5
— Humanist Community (@HumanistOhio) March 16, 2017
Senate Bill 393 has passed the full Senate and a House committee. The House will almost certainly pass it if it comes to a vote. I’m fairly sure Gov. Mary Fallin will sign it into law, but maybe fiscal conservatives can convince her how this bill could hinder economic development by depicting the state, once again, as a place in which many of its residents have a difficult time accepting basic scientific truths.
Here’s the relevant paragraph in the bill, which may seem innocuous, but is really an effort to undermine the teaching of the scientific method in the state’s classrooms:
The State Board of Education, school district boards of education, school district superintendents and school principals shall endeavor to assist teachers to find effective ways to present the science curriculum as it addresses scientific controversies.Teachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
Previous versions of this type of bill through the years have referred specifically to the theory of evolution and climate change as two of the controversies. The bill’s main sponsor is Sen. Josh Brecheen, a Republican from Coalgate, who has been pushing such legislation for years. Years ago, as The Lost Ogle noted in 2011, Brecheen published an article in the Durant Daily Democrat that included this gem of a paragraph:
BLUE OKLAHOMA, ANYTHING BUT SAD.
Blue Oklahoma has been a part of the Oklahoma political blogging scene since 2006. It originally began as a progressive, diary-like site with a handful of contributors and still remains open to people who want to write liberal and center-left commentary. It also serves as a companion site for Kurt Hochenauer's Okie Funk blog, which has been part of the news media here since 2004.
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