May 1, 2015
“Halting the Tax Cut Would
Help with the Budget Shortfall”
As we head into the last month of the 2015 legislative session, and as lawmakers struggle to close a projected $611 million budget shortfall for the new fiscal year beginning July 1, it seems rather obvious there is at least one way to address a portion of the state’s budget deficit. And, it’s really simple.
Don’t Make the Problem Worse
To paraphrase the oft-stated admonition from a famous Oklahoman decades ago, if you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you should do is stop digging. Will Rogers reportedly said something like that.
A Simple Step will Help
The simple way to reduce the size of the budget deficit is to halt the one-quarter of one percent cut to the state’s personal income tax, scheduled to take place January 1, 2016. Doing so would preserve a projected $50 million to support the operations of state government – and reduce the shortfall from $611 million to “only” $561 million.
Halting the tax cut, even if only temporarily, would make the budget more manageable this year, and also prevent the anticipated loss of another $150 million in state revenues for the following year.
Why is the Tax Cut Taking Place Anyway?
Halting the tax cut makes a whole lot of sense, especially since it wasn’t even supposed to take place if state revenues didn’t grow enough to offset the money to be lost as a result of it. That fact seems to have been forgotten by those in charge at the Capitol as the December projection of a $300 million deficit grew to the $600 million figure by February. How did the “trigger” get pulled for the tax cut when the state was experiencing a massive decline in revenue?
Tax Savings is Negligible for Most
Who’s going to be hurt if the tax cut is halted? It won’t be the 40% of Oklahomans who aren’t expected to receive any tax relief from it. As for the remaining 60%, the average tax savings for a whole year is estimated at around $30. Of course, for those near the top of the income scale, the benefit would be greater.
Let Common Sense be the Guide
For these reasons and for others that amount to common sense, OREA urges Oklahoma legislators to do the simple thing, the right and responsible thing, and that is to halt the scheduled income tax cut.
Make Some Telephone Calls Now!
OREA also urges members to contact state legislators – as many as you can – and Governor Mary Fallin with this simple and clear message: Do what’s best for our state at the current time. Halt the tax cut.
Governor Mary Fallin: (405) 521-2342
House of Representatives switchboard: (405) 521-2711 or (800) 522-8502 toll free
Senate switchboard: (405) 524-0126 or (800) 865-6490 toll free
The 63rd Annual Convention & House of Delegates
Tulsa Hotel & Conference Center
6808 S. 107th East Avenue, Tulsa
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Convention & House of Delegates
“State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister
Will Keynote 2015 OREA Convention”
The OREA Convention Committee is delighted to announce that Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction, has agreed to serve as keynote speaker for the organization’s 2015 Annual State Convention, set for Tuesday and Wednesday, September 29-30 in Tulsa.
Hofmeister will address conventioneers Wednesday morning, September 30, at approximately 11:15 a.m. at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center at 6808 S. 107th East Avenue.
The state superintendent’s appearance adds to the recent line of outstanding keynote speakers that have provided informational and entertaining presentations to members attending OREA’s biggest annual event.
Joy Hofmeister was elected November 4, 2014, to be Oklahoma’s 14th Superintendent of Public Instruction. A former public school teacher and small business owner, she spent many years in service to public education in Oklahoma, including a stint as an officer for the Jenks Public Schools Foundation Board of Directors, the Select Committee for the Study of School Finance, and other committees within the Jenks Public Schools.
In just a few months in office as the state’s top education official, Hofmeister has made a positive public impression due to her intellect, willingness to work with all education stakeholders, and genuine desire to make Oklahoma’s public schools the best they can be for all school children.
All four of Hofmeister’s children are graduates of Oklahoma’s public schools.
Hofmeister received a bachelor’s degree in Education from Texas Christian University, and holds teaching certificates in English and Elementary Education. She is currently doing graduate work in Education Administration at the University of Oklahoma. She spent 15 years operating Kumon Math and Reading Centers of South Tulsa, working with thousands of students to improve their educational outcomes.
Prior to election as State Superintendent, Hofmeister served from January 2012 to April 2013 as a member of the State Board of Education. She and husband Gerald Hofmeister reside in Tulsa.
(Members are reminded to make note of the change of date for this year’s convention. A spring event in recent years, the 2015 Annual State Convention will be held for the first time as a major fall kickoff event for OREA’s membership year.
Tickets now on sale: $15.00 each if purchased by August 31 increasing to $20.00 thereafter
Keep Pension System Out of Budget Talks
by State Rep. Randy McDaniel
Oklahoma faces a large budget shortfall. Difficult decisions will need to be made. However, using the pension system to solve other problems would be shortsighted.
In the past, as pension finances started to improve, resources would be cut to fill different budget holes and new unfunded benefits would be given. The combination of less money and larger benefits led to growing financial insecurity.
By 2010, the unfunded pension liability had grown to over $16 billion. The funding deficit was more than $500 million per year, despite record annual contributions. The state retirement system was on a pathway toward insolvency.
Leaders took responsibility. Major reforms were passed. From preventing additional benefits and closing loopholes, to increasing retirement ages and establishing a new plan, billions in cost-saving reforms were approved. Meanwhile, funding rates remained steady and pension investments rebounded. As a result, the huge funding gap has been closed and the unfunded liability is at its lowest level in a decade.
Now is not the time to retreat and undermine the headway that has been made. The mission continues. History doesn't have to repeat itself, but preventing the mistakes of the past will require taking a path less traveled.
As always, numerous bills have been filed this session to expand member benefits that are harmful to the pension system. Once again, these bills were suspended. The policy safeguards have been enacted to protect the retirement system, beneficiaries and all taxpayers. They must be upheld. The common-sense rules include knowing how much a proposal will cost and having a reliable way to pay for it.
As Will Rogers once said, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
Nonetheless, another idea being discussed is to reduce the money going into the retirement system. Pension payments are not discretionary. Furthermore, the number of baby boomers moving into retirement is unprecedented. This demographic reality needs to be taken into consideration during budget negotiations. Pension funding must consistently exceed costs in order to prevent placing an undue burden on future generations.
A great deal of improvement has been made regarding the financial condition of the pension system. Decreasing the funds coming into the system, whether through the employer contribution rates or dedicated tax revenues, threatens the substantial progress achieved. It is the duty of all those elected to ensure the promises made to thousands of dedicated state and local employees are fulfilled, many of whom teach our children, protect our communities and risk their lives every day to serve the citizens of Oklahoma.
McDaniel, R-Edmond, represents District 83 in the Oklahoma House where he is chairman of the Business, Labor and Retirement Laws Committee. Reprinted from the April 15, 2015 edition of The Oklahoman.
- ANNOUNCING A BRAND NEW BENEFIT -
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Introducing the first two trips....
Bella Italia Tour Highlights include:
- St. Mark's Square
- High-Speed Train
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Click here to learn more about the OREA Bella Italia Tour
New York City Holiday Highlights include:
- Radio City Music Hall featuring
high kicking Rockettes
- Empire State Building
- 911 Memorial
- Statue of Liberty
- Broadway show
- and much, much more
OREA Spotlight on New York City Holiday
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