Monday, December 29, 2014
Thursday, December 18, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY — Revenues available for certification for the next appropriated state budget are trending flat but remain sufficient to trigger a personal income tax reduction in tax year 2016, according to projections approved Thursday.
The seven-member Board of Equalization on Thursday certified revenues Gov. Mary Fallin can use to build her FY 2016 executive budget proposal. Under state law, the governor must use the figure certified Thursday for the executive budget that will presented to the Legislature when it convenes Feb. 2.
The board also took action required under legislation enacted in April that will cause the state’s top personal income tax rate to drop from 5.25 percent to 5 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2016. The legislation authorized the income tax reduction if the FY 16 General Revenue Fund (GRF) estimate made by the board Thursday was equal to or greater than the FY 14 GRF estimate made by the board in February 2013. The FY 16 GRF estimate the board reviewed Thursday is $6,004,349,345, which is $60.7 million more than the FY 14 GRF estimate of $5,943,662,805 made in February 2013.
“Oklahomans are getting relief at the gas pump this year, and next year they’ll be getting more relief through a lower personal income tax,” said Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston L. Doerflinger.
The board on Thursday approved an estimate of $6,914,776,463 in available revenue for the FY 2016 executive budget proposal. That amount is $43.3 million, or 0.6 percent, less than what was approved last December for the governor’s FY 15 executive budget, and $298.1 million, or 4.1 percent, less than the legislatively-approved FY 15 appropriated state budget of $7,212,855,361.
“There isn’t more money, but there is adequate money. We have a big enough pie and our job now is slicing it right to meet the needs of the day with the funds available,” Doerflinger said.
Despite the $298.1 million differential between FY 15 total appropriations and the preliminary FY 16 revenue estimate, revenues the board can certify as available for appropriations remain mostly flat. The estimate the board approved Thursday of revenue available for the FY 16 executive budget proposal is $25.6 million, or 0.3 percent, less than the $6,940,352,735 the board approved in February 2014 as available for FY 15 appropriations. However, the enacted FY 15 budget appropriated more than was certified by the board due to its use of $291.7 million in additional funds from various government accounts.
“As is the case most every session, revenues certified by the board do not represent all revenues available for appropriation,” Doerflinger said. “We were well-intentioned in using additional resources to meet needs last session, but next session we’ll have to rely more on cuts to most areas if we’re going to put additional resources anywhere else. We’ll have to prioritize and make tough choices.”
The board will meet again in late February to make a second estimate that will be used in negotiations between the governor and legislators to determine FY 16 appropriations levels for state agencies.
“As always, February’s certification matters way more than this December estimate,” Doerflinger said. “If oil prices continue sliding and the energy sector shrinks, there may be less revenue in February than there is today – we’ll see. In any event, the challenge is not insurmountable and we can and will manage it.”
Doerflinger is director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, which works with the Governor's Office to build the annual executive budget. OMES, in conjunction with the Oklahoma Tax Commission, prepares the revenue estimates that are presented to the Board of Equalization.
The packet the board reviewed Thursday can be accessed on the OMES website: http://www.ok.gov/OSF/documents/boe12182014.pdf
Monday, December 8, 2014
Friday, November 21, 2014
Rep. Josh Cockroft
"An Open Letter to the Citizens of the State of Oklahoma,
The Oklahoma Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in a lawsuit brought against Senate Bill 1246, which was passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law by Governor Mary Fallin in the 2014 legislative session.
That piece of legislation, now state law, was intended to reduce Oklahoma’s personal income tax rate if certain state tax collection targets are met. The lawsuit against the new statute is being aided by vocal opponents of income tax reductions.
According to those who filed the lawsuit, the new law violates provisions of State Question 640, originally approved by a majority of Oklahoma voters in 1992 with the goal of making it more difficult for state lawmakers to increase taxes paid by Oklahomans.
In 1992, state lawmakers’ ability to increase taxes and revenue needed to be restrained. The subsequent constitutional restraint requires that bills creating or increasing taxes, or making new revenue sources for the purpose of funding government, start in the state House of Representatives. Also, such bills cannot be passed in the final five days of the legislative session. As well, they must either be submitted to a vote of the people or receive three-fourths approval by both the state Senate and House of Representatives.
The lawsuit against the new tax reduction attempts to make the case that any bill related to taxes or revenue, whether it increases or decreases taxes paid by Oklahomans, is subject to the provisions of SQ 640. This interpretation violates the plain wording of the amendment and the intent of the voters.
Taxpaying Oklahomans should be alarmed by arguments made last month before the state Supreme Court justices regarding the intent of SQ 640. It was argued before the Court that, when the citizens voted in 1992 to make it more difficult for the state Legislature to increase their taxes, it was actually the intent of voters to make it more difficult to lower their taxes. Such an interpretation would mean SQ 640 applies to any bill dealing with revenue. This is a direct violation of the plain language of the statute in question and the clear intent of the voters. If a subsequent ruling by the Court reflects such rationale, this will have grave consequences on the ability of the Legislature in the future to provide relief to taxpayers.
If the state Supreme Court rules according to the lawsuit’s interpretation, there could be serious consequences. Minor or technical amendments to revenue-related statutes, bills lowering fees, and prior personal income tax cuts, business tax cuts, estate tax cuts, credits and deductions for seniors, and retiree and veteran tax relief could all be challenged and overturned.
It is even possible that dozens, if not hundreds, of past measures enacting tax relief or the expenditure of revenue could be immediately ruled null and void.
Such a ruling sets a precedent benefiting only those who want to undo such prior tax relief as the gross production tax compromise, also passed during the 2014 legislative session.
As well, any law passed in Oklahoma since 1992 that increased or decreased the amount of funds in the state Treasury could be immediately deemed unconstitutional if it failed to meet the standards of SQ 640. This could include state budget bills, which are routinely passed in the final days of session, jeopardizing funding for schools, public safety, transportation infrastructure and safety net services.
Tax-relief measures enacted in Oklahoma since SQ 640’s passage in 1992 that could potentially be ruled unconstitutional, should SB 1246 be struck down by the Court, would include:
- Reductions of the state’s personal income tax rate from 6.65 percent down to 5.25 percent; passed in 2005 and 2006.
- Manufacturing exemption against the state’s corporate income tax for distributors; passed in 2005.
- Prohibition of taxation on intangible personal property; sent to the voters for approval in 2012.
- Setting of the state’s gross production tax rate at 2 percent for all new oil and natural gas wells drilled in the state, for the first three years of a well’s production; passed in 2014.
- Repeal of Oklahoma’s estate tax; passed in 2005.
- Tax relief for all disabled military veterans filing personal income tax returns in Oklahoma; passed in 2005.
- Tying of the state’s standard deduction for taxpaying families to match the federal standard deduction; passed in 2006.
- Tax relief for all private-sector retirees filing personal income tax returns in Oklahoma; passed in 2006.
- Tax relief for all military veterans filing personal income tax returns in Oklahoma; passed in 2006.
Clearly, this was not the intent of Oklahoma voters when they approved SQ 640 in 1992. Such actions by the state Supreme Court would inflict unnecessary hardship on Oklahoma families, retirees, veterans, entrepreneurs and job-creators.
It is our sincere hope that the Oklahoma Supreme Court will use discretion and sound judgment and not rule in such fashion as to throw out two decades-worth of tax reductions for Oklahoma taxpayers. It is truly bizarre to imagine that Oklahoma voters desired in 1992 to make it more difficult than it had previously been for state lawmakers to take less of their money.
Since 1992, Oklahomans have benefited from numerous state-level tax reductions and suffered few state-level tax increases. SQ 640 has been a good protection against rapid escalation of state-level tax rates and unnecessary growth of state government. Our state and its people have benefited as a result.
Rep. Josh Cockroft"
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Thursday, October 23, 2014
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Monday, October 13, 2014
"As someone once said, modern technology is a great thing – until you try to use it. Human error has a way of undermining years of technological advances. That was certainly the case when I recently submitted my legislative column to area newspapers.
At the time, I was working at home on both my column and an upcoming speech focused on traditional marriage. While preparing for that speech, I pulled an article by Ryan T. Anderson from the Heritage Foundation and placed it in my notes for future reference. I planned to include some of that material in the speech (with attribution).
Unfortunately, I had two files open on my computer at the same time: the file for my weekly column and the file for my speech notes. At some point, I accidently copied the speech notes file and submitted it as my weekly column by mistake. Thus, Mr. Anderson’s work was wrongly presented as my own.
It was never my intention to take credit for another person’s work, but that is what I did, albeit accidently. I apologize to Mr. Anderson, the papers that received the column, and the people of House District 27. I failed to double-check my work, and my haste created a situation that embarrasses me deeply.
With sincerest regrets,"
Rep. Josh Cockroft
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Note: After being made aware I had posted an errant column, I have removed it and replaced it with the correct version. The previous version was never meant to be published, but was for my records alone, were personal notes for an upcoming speech, and were published through an honest mistake. That version had many direct quotes without proper credit given to the author. I have fixed the problem and promise to be more aware in the future.
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear an appeal to a federal district court’s earlier ruling, essentially removing Oklahoma’s ban on homosexual marriage.
I, as well as multiple other state officials, immediately expressed my outrage to the blatant disregard of the very moral fibers upon which this country was founded and for the gross overreach of the federal judicial system. In an issue which boils down to state's rights, three individuals in a federal district court overturned what 1.1 million people stated in defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
I have spent the last several days stating and restating my personal opinion, but for this column, I want to take a step back and look at this issue from a practical standpoint, ask a few questions and provide answers on this important issue.
What is marriage, why does traditional marriage matter for public policy, and what would be the consequences of redefining marriage?
We first have to ask ourselves why the institution of marriage exists. The simple answer would be so that population and society as we know can continue. Practically, marriage brings one man and one woman together to be a father and mother to the children their union produces. This union is founded on the indisputable truth that men and women are made differently, yet made complementary at the same time. Without these differences, including the physical differences which allow reproduction and the rearing of their children, marriage would just be another relationship. Without marriage, there would be no civilization. Marriage has many public purposes that even go beyond its private purposes. This fact is why a majority of states have attempted to affirm and place into state statute that marriage is between a man and a woman.
The reason government recognizes marriage is for its benefits to society. No other institution produces the kinds of results that marriage does. Proper child-rearing and the encouragement by the state to take responsibility of the family structure are among the many benefits.
As Ryan T. Anderson from the Heritage Foundation said in an article titled "Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It” (2013): "Promoting traditional marriage does not at any time ban any type of relationship. Adults are free to make choices about their relationships, and they do not need government sanction or license to do so. All Americans have the freedom to live as they choose, but no one has a right to redefine marriage for everyone else."
What we as a society are doing in redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships is placing the desires of adults of more importance than the needs of the children within these relationships. Selfishness is blinding our eyes to the needs of the next generation. Additionally, redefining marriage within state and federal governments reduces the institution to whatever government at the time defines it as. In other words, if an individual has an emotional connection to a rock or even (although it now sounds outrageous) a young child, then government could recognize and give the definition of marriage in that instance.
I believe we are traveling down the slippery slope of convenience over principle and a false definition of equality over practicality.
Never hesitate to contact me. Email me at: Josh.Cockroft@okhouse.gov. Call me at: (405) 557-7349. Follow me on Facebook: Representative Josh Cockroft, and Twitter: @VoteCockroft27.
Monday, September 29, 2014
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
Monday, September 8, 2014
Last week, the National Council on Compensation Insurance reported that workers' compensation rates will decrease by 7.8 percent for next year. This follows on the last year's report of a 14.6 percent cost decline. The State Chamber of Oklahoma estimates that since workers' comp reform was passed in the state, Oklahoma businesses have saved more than $220 million. It is by far not a perfect system, but we have taken great leaps of improvement.
Likewise, we are now approaching the issues of earthquakes in the same deliberate manner. Over the last several years in Oklahoma, earthquakes have become one of the newest concerns. Questions have abounded of how Oklahoma can make policy decisions which protects its citizens, while protecting the free market system and protecting freedom to our businesses and the energy sector.
Gov. Mary Fallin has recently created a panel to coordinate earthquake studies in the state. The Coordinating Council on Seismic Activity will connect researchers, officials and energy industry experts. Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment Michael Teague will lead the panel. It will include input from the Oklahoma Geological Survey, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, Oklahoma State University, the University of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association and the Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association.
According to the Oklahoma Geological Survey, 3.0 magnitude or greater earthquakes have increased from an average of less than 5 to about 40 a year. There were more than 200 this year so far. Some studies have pointed to natural causes while others have pointed to the oil and natural gas industry.
I am highly concerned about what these earthquakes mean for homeowners and public safety. Will they get worse? Do we need to require earthquake coverage? Do we need to limit what techniques can be practiced in close vicinity to property? We really haven't received a clear answer. Trying to get a bird's eye view by coordinating the studies is an important first step in figuring out the state's course going forward.
I will always fight to protect conservative principles and against overreaching state and local government. However, we must ask some tough questions to see whether state government is doing everything within its power to place our state in a safe position. This is treading on new ground for our state. I look forward to being part of the discussion over the next few years.
It is always a pleasure to serve you! I can be reached through my Capitol office at (405) 557-7349 and by email at:Josh.Cockroft@okhouse.gov. My door is always open to you.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
The Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives approves studies every summer to help lawmakers prepare for next year. Held anytime between August and November, these studies aid us in building consensus on touchy subjects and getting the details right on complex policy initiatives.I believe strongly in the death penalty. It serves as an important deterrent to the taking of a life in our state. It also gives grieving families a much-needed sense of justice. This year’s botched execution gave ammunition to the anti-death penalty movement. One of the studies approved in July will examine or execution and death penalty procedures to ensure our manner of executions are beyond reproach. We will also be looking at what other methods of execution are available as execution drug supplies are increasingly scarce.Water conservation is going to get more important with each passing year. A second approved study will focus on streamlining and improving on the state’s water plan. We all know how important water is, so I will be watching closely to ensure we are getting solid ideas to move the state forward.This year, Gov. Mary Fallin advocated for a mandate that would require physicians to check a prescription drug database before prescribing an addictive substance to a patient. Our state has a huge problem with prescription drug overdoses. One approved study will examine the issue in depth, either convincing more state lawmakers to support the bill or uncovering a better way to combat prescription drug abuse.A bill to require DNA collections regardless of whether or not a person was convicted was defeated this year. The issue will now be up for study and I will be following it closely. I do believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty and should not have his or her privacy invaded via a DNA sample. Even though DNA collection is a useful tool to catch a criminal who is slipping through the cracks, I think the potential abuse is much more troubling. I will report to you on what comes out of that study at a future date.Lastly, I wanted to mention a study that will examine Red Cedar eradication. Red Cedar trees are extremely flammable and a terrible nuisance in Oklahoma. I am open to any ideas on how to eradicate them in a cost-efficient manner.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
After taking a couple weeks off after my re-election, it feels great to get back into the routine of my busy schedule. Again, thank you for the overwhelming vote of confidence in me so I can continue serving House District 27. I look forward to these next couple sessions with great anticipation, looking for ways to continue moving Oklahoma forward. I am humbled and honored to serve you.
I also hope you and your family had a great Independence Day as we celebrated our great nation and the freedoms we enjoy. May we each seek to protect and preserve these freedoms so we can pass them on to future generations.
Every time we go through an election process I am reminded of the incredible process we have the opportunity to be a part of, and the responsibility of each of us to partake. This election cycle was no different. Each year we must make decisions on individuals who will lead our state in a positive direction.
There were a couple surprises this year, but none could top the overwhelming victory of Joy Hofmeister over incumbent Janet Barresi for state school superintendent. I have had no hesitation in the past in voicing my disapproval of some of Superintendent Barresi’s policies, but didn’t quite expect the blowout she received statewide. Anytime an incumbent comes in third place in a three-way primary it is an historic election. It is quite obvious a decent portion of the votes Joy received came from Democrats who switched parties to simply vote in this particular race and against the incumbent. It will be intriguing to watch if these individuals will stay registered as Republicans to fight for a particular set of ideals and principles, or if they simply voted out of spite towards one individual. As I stated earlier, I have been no fan of Superintendent Barresi, but in an emotionally charged election it is always important to remember the issues at hand. A better education for our children should be at the forefront of our minds, not simply ousting one person. At the end of the day, the sad reality is that only 25 percent of eighth grade students in Oklahoma are proficient in math and only 29 percent are proficient in reading. This should be our goal to overcome, not a “dentist-turned-teacher.”
I will continue to fight for education that originates at the local level, which I believe to be superior to any other method. Education begins in the home and then grows from there. We must encourage strong families and strong local schools before we ever see a change for the better in Oklahoma education. It’s a long fight, but a fight worth fighting.
Oklahomans chose well in this primary. Now do we have the fortitude and will to finish what we’ve started?
Please never hesitate to contact me. It is an honor to serve you! You can contact my office at: 405-557-7349, or by email at: Josh.Cockroft@OKHouse.gov. You can also follow me on Twitter: @VoteCockroft27, Facebook: Representative Josh Cockroft, and on my website:FriendsofJoshCockroft.com
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Every year, the Oklahoma Legislature passes a budget, and as with anything dealing with government, it is met with both praise and criticism. Every year, there are some agencies that gain additional funding and others that receive cuts. We are constitutionally required in Oklahoma to keep a balanced budget from year to year. In this budget year where we faced a $188 million deficit in projected revenue those criticisms will ring even louder. The harsh reality everyone must face is there will never be enough money. We will always want more. In my four years in the legislature I have yet to hear an agency director or any other entity ask the legislature for less money. Obviously there are instances where more appropriations are needed. However, a desire for more is simple human nature.
With this year’s budget, as with any other year’s, there are winners and losers. There is absolutely no such thing as a perfect budget because at the end of the day, someone will walk away unhappy. It is our responsibility as lawmakers to shape and craft a product which will keep our state on track and moving us in a positive direction.
I voted for this year’s budget with many reservations, but with the knowledge it moved us forward for one more year. Many individuals don’t recognize the problem, but I believe our budget process is broken or in need of a serious fix. When something is broken, the product it produces will always lack in quality.
Oklahoma crafts its budget the same as it has always done, with very few people involved. Don’t get me wrong, your legislator still voices their (and your) opinion, but the ultimate decisions are made in closed door negotiation between only a handful of people. When transparency is used, I believe it lessens the need for the accounting tricks which we saw this and other years in using supplementals and revolving funds to balance our budget. All four years I have been in office, I have fought for a more transparent budgeting process that involves more members, and forces each entity which receives money from the state to reconcile every penny needed and spent.
Opening this process up to not only the public, but giving legislative members more power over specific areas, will expose waste and infuse transparency into state government. Each member currently serves on sub-committees which are designed to look into specific agencies’ budgets. Yet, usually only the Chairman of that committee who reports to the House Appropriations Chairman really digs into the numbers of their budgets. This results in only a handful of members having a working knowledge of the numbers when there could be 101 members with this knowledge. Also, why are closed door negotiations needed? I believe every citizen should be able to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
In my first year in the legislature, it was the first year to have committee meetings open to the public. We've come a long way in four years, but we should never settle for complacency. An open government is an effective government. I'll continue to fight to improve the process so we don't have to play games and politics with your hard earned money.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY – A legislative proposal that would help counties convert their fleets to compressed natural gas and increase CNG infrastructure now has the endorsement of T. Boone Pickens.
“Oklahoma is looking to make things happen,” Pickens said. “While others are debating the merits of exporting our expanding supplies of domestic natural gas to Europe and Asia, Oklahoma is hard at work on creating demand for this premium fuel, and helping rebuild their economy on the backs of this cleaner, cheaper resource. A good case in point is Oklahoma House Bill 2954, which would move more than 2,400 county vehicles to domestic natural gas. This is a great move for Oklahoma, for the environment and for those who believe in greater fiscal responsibility by our elected officials.”
House Bill 2954, by Rep. Josh Cockroft and Sen. Kyle Loveless, would set up a fund to help counties convert their vehicles to compressed natural gas and encourage development of CNG fuel stations for both government and public use.
“Encouraging the use of compressed natural gas saves government dollars while at the same time boosting the natural gas industry in Oklahoma,” said Cockroft, R-Wanette. “Our legislation gives counties the ability to realize the savings we are already seeing at the state level from the conversion of vehicles to compressed natural gas.”
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has recorded thousands of dollars in savings from the CNG conversion of only 174 vehicles. There are approximately 2,400 county vehicles – excluding law enforcement vehicles – in the state. The legislation requires counties to track fuel savings.
“After converting 174 vehicles to CNG, they recorded $163,451 in net savings in 5 months. That’s $32,690 per month,” Cockroft said.
The measure was approved by a vote of 71-17 in the House and 30-12 in the Senate. It is currently eligible to be heard by both chambers and signed by the governor after passage in the conference committee process.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, released the following statement today in response to misinformation being distributed to lawmakers and Oklahomans that the only people who benefit from low, competitive gross production taxes are ‘Fat Cats’ on ‘Wall Street’:
“It’s alarming that a leftist group is misinforming Oklahomans by claiming that only ‘Fat Cats on Wall Street’ benefit from the current tax rates on gross production. In their effort to increase taxes they are using the tactics of the politics of envy, the favored tactic of President Obama and liberal billionaires in Oklahoma. Reality does not fit their rhetoric. I doubt anyone would label teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and state employees as ‘Wall Street Fat Cats.’
“According to the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System and the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System, these systems have more than $1.5 billion invested in oil and gas related activities. Oklahoma’s other state pension systems have funds invested in oil and gas related activities as well.
“These funds – which include the millions in annual retirement contributions by government employees – are crucial to keeping the promise to government employees that funds will be available to pay for government workers’ hard earned retirement. Government pensions use gains and dividends from investments to provide cash flow for the payment of monthly retirement benefits.According to Reuters, corporate stocks comprise about a third of public pension holdings nationwide.
“If Oklahoma increases its gross production tax by 600 percent, those funds are extracted from the economy and investors, reducing gains and value to teachers, police officers, law enforcement officers like highway patrol officers, firefighters, corrections officers, social workers and hardworking state employees who depend on these investments for their pension systems.
“It is also important to note that approximately 1.7 million hard working Oklahomans received $2.5 billion in royalty payments in 2012. These royalty owners pay gross production taxes as well.
“We can have a debate about what is the right tax policy, but demonizing government workers, retirees, and hard-working Oklahomans as ‘Fat Cats’ is offensive and should stop. Making policy decisions based on the myth that only the ‘rich’ participate in ‘Wall Street’ and benefit from low taxes is naïve and not conducive to moving Oklahoma forward.”