Originally Published in the Claremore Daily Progress - Sept 22, 2016 - Kristy Sturgill
Congressman Dan Boren discussed the impact of the Oklahoma Academy on policy in the state during a luncheon hosted by Claremore Collective on Wednesday afternoon.
“The academy is one of the best-kept secrets in our state,” said Boren. “It is a place where people can come together, solve big problems in the state of Oklahoma, and they can do it in an evidence-based way and also in a nonpartisan-based way.”
Boren said the Oklahoma Academy’s most recent town hall meeting explored solutions to the state’s $1.3 billion budget shortfall.
“Not just this year, but how do we fix this problem in the short term and also the long term so we have sustainable budgets,” said Boren.
The town hall consists of 160 Oklahomans from across the state, working together for three days discussing state priorities.
Recommendations from the town hall discussions covered topics such as transparency in state government, determining return on investment for the state budget, finding new funding sources for education and considering social policy only every other year.
Boren said state government should publicly post budget documents on the state’s website. He also said too often there is not an adequate amount of time to understand the budget decisions.
“You just hope and pray it is good, and then you vote on it,” said Boren. “There is no time for media to look at it, for the citizens to look at it, and for legislators to look at it.”
Town hall participants also recommended measuring the return on investment for every tax incentive, tax credit and rebate. In addition, Boren mentioned that Amazon.com should be taxed differently in the state.
“I love Amazon.com. I think all of us do, but I think Amazon should pay the same taxes that mom-and-pop shops who are here day in and day out where the rubber meets the road … so we can collect those taxes for services for our people.”
The town hall also recommended the state create a new dedicated source of revenue to fund education in Oklahoma.
“The problem we had in the back and forth is we didn’t come up with a clear consensus on where that revenue will come from,” said Boren. “I know we are having that debate right now, were another fella named Boren is pushing one of those funding sources.”
Finally, Boren mentioned a recommendation to adopt the Miller Plan, developed by Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller. The plan proposes only addressing social issues in the Legislature every other year to allow the state leaders to focus more on the state budget.
“How many hours and days do we spend debating social policy issues to the detriment of finding adequate resources for education, or to build our roads?” said Boren.