Discover more from Oklahoma Columnist, by Clay Horning
As in Washington, Oklahoma Republicans prove they're horribly dysfunctional, too
Would you believe that on the very same day Republicans in Washington made a showcase of their infinite dysfunction, it was happening here in Oklahoma, too?
In Washington, it went down in the House, soon after then-speaker Kevin McCarthy evaded a federal government shutdown by sending to the floor a bill stripped of everything his far-right crazy-town flank refused to say yes to, thereby throwing that flank’s interests overboard in a bid to reach most Republicans and most Democrats, too.
It passed 335 to 91 with majorities from both parties and everybody could breathe again. Essential federal employees would not have to work for no pay, the national parks wouldn’t have to close and the market, though it’s been heading downward for weeks, wouldn’t have to crash.
Well, it was such a bi-partisan miracle, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) decided to engage one of the concessions McCarthy traded to win the speakership in the first place, that a single House member may bring a motion the speaker’s chair be vacated.
He did and because seven other Republicans joined him, and Democrats felt no responsibility to save Republicans from themselves, McCarthy quit being speaker late Wednesday afternoon, leaving one to wonder how Republicans will ever elect another speaker without help from Democrats, who may well be happy to help the right person, just not as an act of charity.
So that was there.
This one’s good, too.
Or not so good.
Depends how you look at it.
Here, our rascally governor, Kevin Stitt, called for and got a special session out of the state legislature.
As reported by The Oklahoman’s Scott Carter, Stitt told the legislature the special session should address three priorities:
• A trigger law that eliminates any state tax for all Oklahomans, “if a state or federal court finds that some residents, due to their race, heritage or political classification, don't have to pay a state tax.”
• A tax cut that puts Oklahoma on the path to zero state income tax.
• A measure that increases budget transparency to ensure Oklahomans and their elected representatives will have the ability and opportunity to see how their taxpayer dollars are being spent.
Note the first is another shot at the tribes, continuing to make an issue of the McGirt decision, which to date has not relieved anybody from paying their state income taxes, yet the governor simply can’t not stoke the blaze he created.
The second is a terrible idea in any state that demands three-fourths majorities to raise state income taxes, yet that’s just what Oklahoma law demands thanks to a long ago state referendum that, on the whole, has not been good for the state.
The third is a fine idea, though one wonders if Stitt knows the first thing about transparency given all the scandals he and his good friend Ryan Walters have plunged themselves and the state into.
But forget all that because that’s not the dysfunction.
The dysfunction is what became of the special session and what was happening elsewhere in the capitol on the same day it was to begin
And, as it turned out, end.
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It lasted five hours, total, killed by the senate, which adjourned “sine die,” a latin phrase the equal of “with prejudice,” each of them, in this case, synonyms for the french word “fini.”
You get the idea.
Here’s how it went down.
The morning the special session was to begin, Stitt convened a 9:30 a.m. press conference alongside state house speaker Charles McCall, state treasurer Todd Russ and one of the most destructive Americans you’ve never heard of, Grover Norquist, who’s made a career of getting legislators to sign no-tax-increase pledges that have led to exorbitant federal deficits and breakdowns to the social safety net.
Indeed, because of Norquist, more than any other person over the last half century of American history, the party that claims to be fiscally responsible has nonetheless run up deficits at far greater speed than Democrats precisely because that same party is also against paying for anything.
The governor distributed handouts that said the state had $5.4 billion in savings accounts, a recurring expenditure base of $9.6 billion and a surplus of $1.2 billion.
"The big picture here is we want to slow the growth of state government,” he said. “This is unsustainable. We want to cut taxes and give that money back to the taxpayer."
Again, Stitt makes no sense.
If such surpluses are unsustainable, shouldn’t taxes stay where they are? Or perhaps what’s unsustainable is the incongruousness of surpluses without taxes coming down? But if that’s the case, KILL THE GROCERY TAX NOW. Stitt has claimed his openness to it many times, every Democrat would be on board and most Republicans would be, too, if the governor pushed it. And because it would benefit every single Oklahoman, regardless of income, the tax savings would go right back into the economy at a rate income tax savings just can’t deliver. Of course, because state Republicans are all about giving money away to their donors and constituents — see tax credits, education — all of us will continue paying too much for our groceries.
At no point, either, did Stitt explain “the growth of government” he’s trying to combat. His party runs everything in this state, so who’s making it grow too fast?
Again, I digress.
Anyway, the state senate, led by senate pro tem Greg Treat, wanted to hear from the governor, the man who called the special session in the first place.
But Stitt could not be bothered.
Here’s a quote from Treat about that:
“We were very disappointed he chose not to. It’s not like he was out of the country. It’s not like he was out of state. He was downstairs. He was three floors down holding a press conference called, obviously, after we had invited (him) to the 10 a.m.”
“We even held up the start of the appropriations meeting to afford him the opportunity to slam us for a while downstairs, then come upstairs and present his plan.”
But he didn’t.
So, by early afternoon, the special session was killed.
The good news for the senators, 40 of 48 of whom are Republicans?
State business having come to a close, each had the opportunity to get in front of a television, like so many of us after getting home from school to watch the Cubs on WGN before Wrigley finally adopted lights, and watch Matt Gaetz and seven cohorts push Kevin McCarthy out of the speakership.