STILLWATER, Okla. —
To the editor:
Several years ago, my wife and I went to a program being held in the Oklahoma State University library. We were early and just sat down to wait in the room for the program. We sat in chairs along the wall. There was a small bookshelf attached to the wall just above us. I checked the books and saw that they were Will Rogers’ material. I picked up one without any regard to its title and opened it arbitrarily to near the middle. There I found the following words by Will:
“The whole trouble with the Republicans is their fear of an income tax, especially on higher income. They speak of it almost like a national calamity. I really believe if it comes to a vote whether to go to war with England, France and Germany combined, or raise the rate on incomes of over $100,000, they would vote war.”
Relatively, the income tax gene does not seem to have changed very much in the years since then. The governor says that it will provide the people a little more money to use as they so choose. I think that many of us would be just as pleased for it to remain with the government so that it could function more effectively. As I understand it, there is not enough anticipated income to ensure a reduction can be done.
What are some other factors that need to be considered? It seems that almost everyone believes that we need to make education more effective. That brings up the need for better prepared teachers, possibly obtained by increases in pay. That would be a good place for additional tax retention. Another educational factor is the retired educators’ financial support. The fund is operated effectively, but the COLAs are not provided to the fund by the state to the same degree that other state supported funds are. It does not meet the actual cost. There are many receiving income, and I think it would be appreciated by all of us.
The other retirement factor is that the state wants the system to be changed. WHY? Thousands of us who are drawing retirement income and those paying into it for their own future retirement see it as a way to reduce the projected total income that we now have, or will get in the future.
Along the same lines of education overall, Sunday’s News Press (3/9) has a major story concerning the shortage of funding in Stillwater. All who are concerned with quality education should be aware of that matter. Will it damage our local education system? If taxes were not cut, could state funding be applied to help meet the need? Do other state towns/cities have a similar problem?
Time magazine of Feb. 24, 2014, has an extensive review of a program that the president is working up. It is centered on a man 21 years of age in 1998. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole for distributing crack cocaine. His supplier also was sentenced, but it was for powder cocaine which meant that his sentence was for only 12 years. The life sentence came from mandatory law. In January, the Senate Judiciary Committee, by a 13-5 vote, sent a bill forward recommending that Congress permit judicial review of over 8,000 crack cocaine sentences in the federal system. If passed, it would cut mandatory minimum sentences and permit judges to grant leniency.
The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population, but it jails about 25 percent of its prisoners. That figure is up 800 percent in the last three decades. In 2011, 47 percent of people incarcerated by states had been convicted of nonviolent drug, property and public-order crimes. Even without current statistics we know that Oklahoma is a high-ranking state in this matter of nonviolent incarceration. Jails are filled, an insufficient number of jailers to provide proper care, questions about renting commercially owned jails.
All of that category of prisoner could be pardoned, released and assisted in becoming productive citizens.
Our laws pertaining to these types of crimes could be changed to eliminate incarceration as punishment. Many dollars could be saved and devoted to state needs.
It all reminds me of the situation with Prohibition. The 18th Amendment prohibited alcoholic beverages from being legally manufactured, transported or sold in the U.S. Use of alcoholic beverages today is basically not a problem. Sure, it can result in problems, but the great majority of users do so without trouble.
Limited amounts used on a daily basis or infrequently are recognized as being good for the user’s health. Surely, we, in Oklahoma and others in states that incarcerate for nonviolent actions, don’t want to keep on in such a state of wasting money and damaging the lives of harmless users. A number of states have already remedied this situation. It will be good when Oklahoma does the same.
In closing, I refer your attention to the article in the March 22 issues of the News Press by Taylor Armerding concerning the current status of marijuana.
In summary, it is now legally authorized for recreational use in Colorado and Washington. Twenty states and the District of Columbia, have legally authorized it for medical purposes, and another 14 states are considering it. Colorado just collected $2 million in taxes in January when sales just got under way. It is easy to see that the ultimate will be use similar to alcohol, no incarcerations, hopefully release and pardon all nonviolent uses, and a very usable tax rate that would really help Oklahoma.