Friday, February 1, 2013

Hatin' on the Arts: Part 2

[Note: unless something ridiculous happens, this will probably be my final post about this issue. there's nothing artistic about beating a dead horse.]

In the last few days, I've enjoyed some congenial discourse with OK State Representative Josh Cockroft. He's the 23 year old lawmaker that will formally introduce poorly written legislation that would cut state funding to the Oklahoma Arts Council. Read up on it. 

Anyway, Rep. Cockroft has replied to a couple of my tweets sent his way, as well as an email I sent to his office. In actuality, this is wonderful because I was fully expecting to be completely ignored - as I have been to this point by my own state representative Marian Cooksey.

In both a Twitter response and a blog post from his office, the Representative ensures that he loves the arts, and that the bill (HB1895) isn't going anywhere this session. I am grateful for that.

This all began, according to Cockroft, as a way to begin the difficult conversation about reducing state expenses in balance to reduced state revenues. Oklahoma businesses enjoy some of the lowest corporate taxes in the nation, and the state legislature is once again attempting to draw down the state income tax rate during their 2013 session. The current income tax rate is 5.25%, with a reduction going down to 5%.

All this decrease in taxes has lead to shortfalls for some important areas of state financial responsibilities. Like state employee retirement funds. My spouse is a teacher. Shes proven herself to be one of the best teachers at each of the 3 schools she's worked at in nearly 10 years. So I feel comfortable in allowing the citizens of this great state to pony up for her retirement. After putting up with your snot-nosed kids, she'll deserve it.

So what did a political ideology influence first? The desire to cut the arts, or the desire to reduce taxes in such a way that state revenues dried up requiring the "difficult conversations" about state spending. I still see HB1895 as an attack on the arts, albeit perhaps as a result of a far larger and mischievous political agenda.

It's like state GOP & Tea Party folk are saying, "Oh, we'll kill your beloved little "arts & social services" programs. If not directly, then by dragging the whole state down with us."

The 2013 OK State Legislative session begins Monday, February 3rd. It's likely to be a wild ride!