Featured Four: State Of The State; Rilla Askew; SandRidge Layoffs; Sunsetting Wind Credits
Four stories that were trending or generated discussion online or on KGOU’s social media platforms during the past week.
On Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin delivered her annual State of the State address before a joint session of the Oklahoma House and Senate to kick off the 2016 legislative session. The two big topics were her proposal to give Oklahoma teachers a $3,000 raise, and a restructuring of the state budget to free up $910 million to cover the anticipated budget shortfall. Oklahoma’s Democratic leadership was quick to criticize, saying Fallin was shifting the tax burden to middle class families. The governor also proposed easing prison sentences for low-level drug offenders, which Senate Minority Leader John Sparks, D-Norman, called “rhetoric.”
Reader Michael Given writes: “It is very good to see the Dems in the Oklahoma legislature stating publicly that sales taxes hit poorer Oklahomans unfairly and we need a fairer and adequate tax system taxing the richer citizens that funds adequately public programs in Oklahoma.”
In the final installment of KGOU’s limited-run series Race Matters, host Merelyn Bell spoke with Rilla Askew about her research into the 1921 Tulsa Race Riots. The Fire In Beulah author described how she first learned about the event that led to the destruction of one of the country’s most prosperous African-American communities, Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood. She also drew comparisons to the current Black Lives Matter movement.
Reader Duke called the interview “superb,” and writes: “Like Askew, I learned more about it only after leaving Oklahoma, just as I learned that Oklahoma's 9th governor "Alfalfa Bill Murray," was elected on a campaign platform that was against “The Three C’s — Corporations, Carpetbaggers, and Coons.” As president of the 1906 Oklahoma constitutional convention (Oklahoma became a state in 1907), Murray proposed laws that blacks could only be employed as field hands. He also classified Jews and Italians as “low grade races” and "threats to civilization." President Theodore Roosevelt forced Murray to remove these references before the state’s new constitution was approved. Why am I mentioning this? Because it helps explain why it is taking so far for this country to advance in true racial reform and respect. In my opinion, it also explains the frustration—and hope—that permeates the Black Lives Matter movement. We need to discuss these issues.”
In yet another sign of trouble for Oklahoma City-based SandRidge Energy, the company laid off 172 employees at its headquarters this week. The oil and gas producer cut more than 200 workers at a subsidiary earlier this month, and have also been delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, and faced scrutiny from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission over wastewater disposal wells in the Mississippi Lime play in northern Oklahoma.
Reader Nelda Gay Meeks writes: “This is what happens when we motorists ask for gas prices that we can afford. I am sure the bigwigs at SandRidge Energy are doing OK with their annual perks, though.”
On Wednesday, Oklahoma’s junior Republican U.S. Sen. James Lankford introduced an amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2016 that would end a production tax credit for wind energy. Lankford said on the Senate floor the credit made sense to help a burgeoning industry when it was initially created in 1992, but it’s time for wind power to stand on its own.
Reader Lloyd writes: “I'm not necessarily against dropping or reducing wind subsidies, but what about fossil fuel subsidies? Certainly, they meet Lankford's "criteria" too. They are far more developed than win and solar having been around more than 100 years. They were making record profits a couple of years ago, and will again. The country could save almost 15 billion dollars over the next 3 years by eliminating these subsidies. The real difference is fossil fuel use will decline over the next 100 years, while wind and solar will increase. Isn't it a little smarter to invest in the future when spending public money?”
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