I took a break yesterday from updating you via blog (although that didn’t stop me from being all over Facebook). I have had a very interesting two days, so let’s chat about that.
Yesterday, I was at the OEA building at about 8:00 am for a 9:00 Board meeting. I’m not on the Board, but those meetings are open to members, so I went. I sat through about an hour of it, then decided my time needed to be in the Capitol. Unfortunately, that kept me from getting inside the Capitol before the rest of the state. 🙂
The line to get in
The lines to get upstairs
So, I waited in line to get in, then waited in line to get to the 2nd floor, then again for the 3rd, then again for the 4th. My goal was to get to Echols’ office and sit in front of it until Capital Gains was heard on the Floor. I sat there for a bit with a sign provided by some awesome people that had the same idea before I got there (Mayfield? I think Mayfield – great minds think alike! Or talked to Collin Walke…). Then a group that had been in his office talking to him came out and started explaining what he was saying in there. It wasn’t detailed enough. People were not sharing all of my questions, so I did the UNTHINKABLE and abandoned the sit-in. I stopped my sit-in to stand-in line (teehee). I waited an hour in the hall, then an hour in the lobby area of his office before I got into the room with him and AT LEAST 20 other people. We were crammed in there tight. A lot of them shared some of my questions, and I asked the ones that were missing. He spoke with us for an hour and ten minutes. I’m in the process of transcribing the interview. I posted the first 12 minutes last night on Facebook, and will post what I get done tonight as well. When I’m completely finished, I will post its entirety on a new blog.
Did I mention that while I was in line, someone randomly came up and offered us pizza? This is the third time this week this has happened to me. People just keep handing me pizza!
A lot of what he said in that room has already come to fruition, so I won’t waste time summarizing that. But I learned a lot about how politics are currently working in the House. Something Mark McBride said to me about political theatre suddenly started to make a little more sense. We have some wheeling and dealing going on here, which is normal, but then not everyone seems to stay on the page they thought they were on when they get on the floor. We’ll make a deal, and everyone in the room will agree on that deal, and then the next time we’re on the floor, suddenly it seems that some people are following the deal and some aren’t. So people get really angry and start making really stupid mistakes. Like going Live on Facebook and getting yourself an opponent in your otherwise uncontested race (cough, cough, McDugle, cough). Or telling the Democrats they’ve “found religion” and then having to listen while they tell you how inappropriate that is (Chad Caldwell).
I went outside after that, listened to some awesome music by Jared Deck (see photo left), talked to a few people and a bunch of dogs, and headed to the car. I had been in Echols’ office so long that I missed being able to get into the gallery and I wanted to watch the proceedings. In the car, I tried to access the streaming video to listen to on the way home, but it was patchy at best and buffering almost the whole time. My friend Jessica Gwinner, my partner in crime and also my work wife, had not managed to get into the gallery, but was smarter than me and got a spot in Jason Dunnington’s office to listen to the audio being piped in. She was texting me updates that I couldn’t read because I was driving. I got home, immediately went to the computer and got the page running so I could watch, then guiltily kissed my husband hello because I didn’t really explain my rush…
I logged on just in time to see the show. Shots fired back and forth, bringing up who voted for what education measures in the past, throwing mud around like confetti and inciting verbal abuse from all sides. At least the McCall stand-in for the day was a little less horrible.
Side note – does McCall EVER show up for work????
It was frustrating to agree with Coody when he stood up (multiple times) to remind everyone that the discussion had NOTHING to do with the bill they were supposed to be voting on (which I only knew because while the video was desperately buffering – seriously, guys, fix that! – I was able to read all the texts Gwinner had been sending me).
Guys – I agreed with Coody. It was weird.
Any way, theatre aside, they were voting on the Amazon Third-Party Vendor bill. This is the one that makes us pay sales tax on stuff we buy from the third party vendors that sell through Amazon. It’s a $20 million dollar bill that only requires 50% + 1 vote to pass. Inman amended it so that the money would be earmarked for education, so that’s good. It passed the house after a lot of debate that had nothing to do with the actual bill, and is being sent to the Senate, who will also be hearing Ball and Dice (another ~$22 million).
If both of these pass all the way through, it will bring in ~$42 million dollars. Hotel/motel was ~$50 million, so some people were saying they’d still be $8 million short. Something that was brought up with Echols was the possibility of the Prewritten Software bill.
So, when you buy software at the store, you have to pay sales tax, but if you download a digital copy, you don’t. This would fix that. Echols doesn’t think it’s a good idea (although he’ll do it if he has to). This is mainly because it’s only $8 million dollars, and two-thirds of that would be paid for by one company – Paycom. If we’re going to single out one company like that, it’s not worth it for only an $8 million gain.
With his argument, we shouldn’t need it any way. Why? This was another part of the soon-to-come full interview. I asked about the assertion that 1010xx was already short $75 million dollars before hotel/motel was revoked, so we now have a bill that has been signed into law, but underfunded by $125 million out of the gate. What gives?
Echols didn’t understand where these numbers were coming from, so I told him the cigarette tax was going into General Revenue (GR) the first year, then into Healthcare after that, and the gas tax was going into GR the first year, but into Roads and Bridges after that. Meaning, 1010xx is not fully funded after year one.
His response was that it is correct that cigarette tax and gas tax will be in GR only this year and will go to different places next year. For gas tax, currently we pay Roads and Bridges through income tax. We should be paying it with gas tax, because the more we use the roads, the more we get gas, so those numbers should fluctuate in relatively the same way. The new gas tax will go to Roads and Bridges and the money that is currently going to Roads and Bridges from income tax will then be free to go into education. It’s just moving money around.
Now, cigarette tax is a different story. It’s going into Healthcare, but it’s a new Healthcare fund (I think, if I’m understanding it right – someone correct me if I’m wrong, please). This means that there will not be money freed up in GR to go to education. So the subsequent years for education will be dealt with using growth revenue. He mentioned the nightmare scenario of the economy crashing again and not having the growth revenue to take care of that, then money can be used from the new Healthcare fund if necessary.
So, assuming everything he said is true, 1010 was actually in the black by $20 million dollars before hotel/motel was taken out. That means we only needed to replace $30 million for full funding (hotel/motel was $50 million), and with Ball and Dice and Amazon Third Party, we’ve done $42 million, giving us an extra $12 million to give to DOC, mental health, DHS, and other woefully underfunded core state services.
That’s all well and good. But the big question was WHY NOT CAPITAL GAINS!!!???
Well, we did the 5% GPT instead. WHY NOT BOTH??? The same reason the trip down this rabbit hole led me to Echols’ office to begin with.
He made a deal. Republicans said they won’t do both. Echols gave Democrats a choice. They wisely chose GPT because it’s $480 million instead of Capital Gains Tax Exemption Removal ($30 million this year, $120 million next). So the deal was struck that if the Republicans voted for 5% GPT, they would not have to hear Capital Gains. Echols is holding strong to this deal. He will not hear Capital Gains.
A whole other issue that I haven’t even mentioned yet also plays into his resolve to honor his deal. Tom Coburn and his cronies are so against taxing anyone that they are getting a measure on November’s ballot to repeal 1010xx. A vote of the people. If the people vote against our interest (like we do), then all the work that’s been done at the Capitol this week and will be done next week is gone.
Just let that sink in for a moment.
We’ve got work to do.