The 2017 RINO Index is really simple this year, a No vote is good, a yes vote is bad. That is because we focus on what legislators do wrong, not what they should be doing which is representing their constituents and voting on the good legislation. The major impetus this year was raising taxes, raising fees, and preserving special interest tax credits so that all of the legislation that was bad needed a No vote. Each vote is worth five points, an E or Excused is a negative 2.5 points for missing the vote.
Of the 28 bills that made our decision list we had one senator that voted right every time, Senator Breechen. We threw out six bills to weed the list down to an even twenty bills, choosing bills that some of the good guys had other opinions on. That is a challenge because some of them were bad bills but the larger the list the more a bad vote is diluted. Originally we used ten bills but that leaves a lot of bad bills behind. Then there were two bills out of the batch that the Senate didn't vote on.
The higher the index number the more conservative the legislator. Anything below 70% is considered a RINO, Republican In Name Only.
Here are the bills that were chosen and below them a paragraph why these bills were bad for the average Oklahoman.
HB 1427 allows the Oklahoma Tax Commission to create a new department and hire outside auditors to attempt to collect out of state sales tax payments. This appears to be an attempt to harass out of state vendors with Oklahoma customers with the idea of forcing these out of state vendors to collect sales tax or use tax. If the out of state vendors comply with the auditors and hand over a list of shipments into Oklahoma that would cost Oklahoma companies billions of dollars in new taxes.
Not only is this illegal as federal law prohibits out of state taxation for products shipped into a state, it encourages the growth of government instead of the trimming back to core government functions. Not only that, but this law adds employees and expenses to the state budget.
HB 1449 creates a new tax on electric and hybrid vehicles. Electric vehicles will have $100.00 tacked on to the annual vehicle registration fee and hybrid vehicles will have $30.00 added the registration fee.
All vehicles should be paying something toward road costs but at the same time they give out incentives to buy these vehicles so one hand gives, the other hand takes away. If the incentive is bad, eliminate it. At this time there simply isn't that many of these vehicles to make enough difference to pay for the cost of the legislation.
HB 1845 is the REAL ID bill that forces Oklahoma into the federal identification card system.
The program is a privacy nightmare and unneeded. Worse, those promoting the scheme have long lied about the consequences of not having Oklahoma drivers licenses REAL ID compliant, claiming that you couldn't get on an airplane which is not true. It is also a fee increase, adding $5.00 to the license fee, like the $5.00 they added to the tags last year, with the money siphoned off into Public Safety and two dollars to the tag agents. Even worse, this bill guts the state prohibition on REAL ID passed about eight to ten years ago. There is a clause stating that the state won't share biometric data of its citizen but there is an out for data sharing required by the feds.
HB 2131 is a new tax credit scheme that gives away 10% of sales tax collected for companies with under one million dollars of new investment in a tourist destination, 25% for those companies with over a million dollars new investment, with the annual limit set at $15 million dollars per year drained out of the state treasury.
And this is for investment that is going to be made anyway. The wealthy hire lawyers and lobbyists to pass their special legislation by greasing the palms of the politicians which corrupts the entire legislative process. Meanwhile tax revenue is drained away from the state, causing politicians to raise taxes and fees on the rest of us.
HB 2281 is a soft on crime bill that reduces the penalty for theft, burglary, embezzlement, hot checks, almost every kind of property crime from a felony to a misdemeanor. This is going down from five years in prison to a maximum one year in a county jail.
Being soft on crime isn't good on criminals or the general public. Leniency just encourages the criminals to ply their trade, much of which is fueled by the need for drug money to support their habit. Criminals balance the time in prison against the potential gain of the crime, they don't hire lawyers or bondsmen, they make a plea deal knowing they will probably get a suspended sentence, won't be forced to pay any fees if they don't get a regular job, and they know they can commit ten to fifteen years of crime before the judge finally puts them in prison. The worst thing you can do is to lessen penalties. For the rest of us we deal with kicked in doors, ransacked homes, and higher insurance rates.
HB 2351 is tax credit scheme used in Tax Incentive Districts and it appears to extend ad valorem tax exemptions an additional five years beyond the original exemptions for the project.
Some say this bill was written and passed for a single Oklahoma City developer. Electricity generating projects are exempted from the additional five years property tax exemption. Meanwhile the local school systems have to be repaid by the state, meaning that tax dollars from other sources are diverted to replace the missing money.
HB 2356 is a bill that moves forward the due date for franchise tax payments, moving it forward two months. That effectively increases cash flow for the state by taking the tax money before it was originally due.
This is just not good public policy. It is a budget trick, the income remains the same, they are just collecting it sooner. It is a one time source of quick cash to get past the budget year end. Rather than trim this much money out of the budget by closing useless state agencies or welfare programs they kick the problem down the road for the next legislature to deal with.
HB 2387 creates new state debt, $45 million dollars in bonds, for the Office of Juvenile affairs.
Many millions of dollars will be paid out in bond sale fees and high interest rates, mainly to people that borrowed long term at a few percent interest and turn around and quadruple that in a safe investment to the state. You and I won't be offered these bonds as investments, only the most connected. Past that, we as a people could afford to pay as we go if we had fiscal responsibility and save two third the long term cost of this project.
HB 2389 creates new state debt, $58.5 million dollars in bonds for a new Oklahoma State Department of Health building.
Many millions of dollars will be paid out in bond sale fees and high interest rates, mainly to people that borrowed long term at a few percent interest and turn around and quadruple that in a safe investment to the state. You and I won't be offered these bonds as investments, only the most connected. Like the OJA bonds we taxpayers will pay three times for this project over the life of the bonds. If we need a building, chop that much off welfare or free health care to able bodied people.
HB 2392 increases the annual fee for pesticide permits, removes the state departments from their exemption from paying for the permits (out of one pocket into another) and adds an additional $100 late fee. This is an additional $0.8 million dollars out of Oklahoma pockets.
These fees don't make pesticide use safer, they just bring in money for the state to spend on the department charging the fee. All it does is increase the size of government.
HB 2429 is another gross production tax decrease that allows another four years of reduced taxes from oil and gas wells.
Even though it reduces the amount of tax the state gets the measure was estimated to bring in an additional $95 million dollars. However, the language in that estimate was extremely sparse, as if they were reluctant to discuss the matter and the less said the less to hang them with later. In the end it was an extension of the huge gross production tax decreases passed by Democrats years ago and kept in place by the Republicans thanks to profuse campaign donations. Oklahoma is unique among the surrounding states as we have a gross production rate that is 3.5 times cheaper, money that used to go toward education and other government expenses and programs.
HB 2433 Removes the sales tax exemption on vehicle sales but keeps in place the existing excise taxes on those same vehicles. This is a 38% tax increase on purchasing a new or used vehicle. This will strip another $124 million dollars out of taxpayer's pockets in 2018 and every year afterward.
The excise tax is an "in lieu" tax, a tax levied in the place of a sales tax. So this is double taxation. This was also passed the last week of the legislative session, a constitutional no no. It also passed without a super majority and this is a tax increase which requires a super majority.
SB 38 is a bill that doubles a fee on all crimes except traffic tickets.
Keep in mind that they doubled fees last year in criminal cases. The bill will strip about $3 million per year out of Oklahoman's pockets. The silly part is that a lot of criminal fees aren't collected from the criminals so there is more than a little dishonesty in the revenue projections, all in the name of protecting the special interest tax credits.
SB 120 extends the time that three aerospace tax credits can be claimed. The three tax credit schemes allow employers to get a 50% tax credit off tuition costs they pay to employees for four years, a $12,500.00 tax credit for wages paid to employees at the rate of 10% for state graduates and 5% for out of state graduates, and a five year long $5000.00 tax credit for employees.
All this for jobs that would have come to Oklahoma anyway to be near Tinker. These tax credits were set to expire next year but this measure extends them till 2026. The net effect is that a few more jobs might trickle in but they don't generate that much revenue because of the tax credits. Just more corporate welfare paid for with campaign donations to the wealthiest and most corrupt politicians.
SB 170 removes income tax rate reduction formulas that automatically reduce the income tax rate if state tax revenue hits a certain level.
We never were fans of Fallin's tax decreases because it was all Kabuki Theater because they were raising other taxes and fees and the tax credits were plundering the state tax income. Still, the triggers were set only if state revenue is rising so why bother?
SB 765 Comrade Senator Yen's tanning booth bill the restricts anyone less than 18 years old from using a tanning booth.
Another do nothing nanny state legislative action. People are less free, businesses have another useless law to worry about. Worse it continues the idea that people can't handle their own decisions and the state needs to protect them from their own stupidity.
SB 786 Another soft on crime bill that reduces the penalty for first, second, and third degree burglary. It removes a two year minimum sentence and also requires that someone be present in the building before a burglary is a first degree burglary crime.
The idea is to lessen the number of inmates in prison and that is never a good idea. We have a criminal class the prefers a life of crime over working 40 hours a week 50 weeks a year. What is needed is cheaper prisons and cheaper prosecution of criminals. What is needed is to take a county out in the SW corner of the state and make a few small towns into open air prisons for low security prisoners and put their butts to work. Prisons ought to be a profit center for government and they criminals learn some work ethics.
SB 842 Strips $60 million dollars from the Rainy Day Fund to pay for ad valorem reimbursement from all the tax credits that strip hundreds of millions of dollars from local property tax rolls each year.
This is the tax credits coming home to roost. We have to dip into our state emergency savings account just to pay for the tax credits given to special interests in exchange for campaign contributions. And once again it is a one time source of money, when it is gone it is gone until we begin bringing in a tax surplus again.
SB 845 This is the smoking "fee" that replaced the $1.50 per pack cigarette tax that didn't pass.
Since they basically lied and called it a fee they didn't need a super majority to pass the "fee" but it has already being challenged in court as it is unconstitutional for two reasons. First it is a tax, not a fee, and second it was passed in the last five days of the legislature and that is not allowed. This is a new $257 million dollar tax placed on Oklahoma smokers.
SB 860 is the $6.8 billion dollar bloated budget bill.
The only leverage the good legislators have is to threaten not to support the budget so they can kill off tax increases, new taxes, and trim the size and expense of government. While a few things might have been stopped we once again added over a billion dollars in new taxes and higher fees to the state budget.
Next week we will have the House RINO Index.