- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Tulsa World. May 15, 2017.

Good lord, Rep. Ritze!

Rep. Mike Ritze, long known as one of the most conservative Republicans in a very conservative, very Republican state House, has topped himself for dreadful ideas.

The Broken Arrow Republican recently suggested to KWTV in Oklahoma City that the state could save money by asking federal immigration authorities to consider deporting Oklahoma public school students who don’t speak English.

No, really. That’s what he said.

He went on to suggest that the state might not be responsible for educating children who aren’t in the country legally and that there might be as many as 82,000 kids in Oklahoma schools who don’t speak English.

All of that is, in a word, wrong. Factually and morally.

First, the state certainly is responsible for educating children who are in the nation illegally. The U.S. Supreme Court cleared up that issue 35 years ago.

Second, the state has nowhere close to 82,000 students who don’t speak English. The state Department of Education puts the number of English learners at 49,536.

When an Associated Press reporter tried to check out Ritze’s 82,000 claim the only way he could come close was by including 32,000 bilingual students.

But most important, refusing to educate students who don’t speak English - and suggesting that we would seek their deportation - is just outrageous.

If the students were born in the United States, they are U.S. citizens. In the United States, we don’t deport our own citizens.

Even if they aren’t U.S. citizens and they aren’t in the nation legally, we still want them to be educated. Our nation is better and stronger if its children receive a quality education, regardless of their legal status. Denying children of any nationality an education doesn’t make the children go away. It just makes them ignorant, less productive and more likely to turn to crime in the future.

Good lord, Rep. Ritze! You’ve suggested some doozies in your time in the Legislature, but this time you’ve really topped yourself. That said, we can’t aim all of our outrage at you. We also have to shake our heads in wonder at the 13,000 Broken Arrow citizens who voted for you in November.

___

Enid News & Eagle. May 15, 2017.

The return of the Enid Speedway appears to have been a success.

The venerable race track on the Garfield County Fairgrounds again had cars negotiating its 3/8-mile dirt high bank course when the speedway reopened May 6.

Enid race fans haven’t enjoyed the experience since the track last operated in 2013.

The track’s next event won’t be until July 8, the second of seven scheduled events. Local promoter Kip Hughes hopes to use that time between the first and second races to iron out any rough spots.

More than 100 cars participated in the popular return of Enid racing that went well into the wee hours of the morning.

Hughes, a second-generation driver, was inspired by the success of four seasons at Longdale Speedway. Longdale has been embraced by Northwest Oklahoma race fans. It also proved that interest in racing has remained strong in the area.

Hughes quickly dispels any notion of a rivalry between the two tracks, working with Longdale to make Northwest Oklahoma racing great again.

Longdale represents one of the few new short-track courses recently built, and general manager Greg Burgess sees it as one of the top tracks of its kind.

“In comparison to other facilities, it ranks up there with short tracks around the country,” Burgess said. “It’s the nicest one in Oklahoma for sure.”

With both tracks up and running, Northwest Oklahomans will get a total of 30 scheduled race dates through October, with Longdale providing the bulk, with 24 dates, its season already well underway.

Fans won’t have to choose between tracks, either, with Longdale Speedway and Enid Speedway currently not scheduled to hold race events on the same nights.

We’re thrilled to see this racing resurgence in Northwest Oklahoma.

___

The Oklahoman. May 16, 2017.

In looking for ways to fill an $878 million budget hole, Oklahoma lawmakers have even considered raising the tax burden of people with major medical bills or those who donate to charity. At the same time, they continue to ignore proposals that appear more worthy of debate. For example: Should the sales tax apply to wind power development?

Oklahoma has a 4.5 percent state sales tax that applies to the purchase of most goods. The average Oklahoman pays that tax almost every day, along with corresponding local sales taxes.

Cliff Branan, executive director of the Windfall Coalition, a group critical of wind power, recently argued that wind developers should pay sales tax on turbines.

In a column in the McAlester News-Capital, Branan wrote, “Each new wind turbine, which is manufactured somewhere else and shipped into Oklahoma, could net the state about $90,000 in sales tax revenue. The math is simple: The average wind turbine costs about $2 million. The statewide sales tax is 4.5 percent, which equals $90,000 per turbine.”

Since 750 new turbines are scheduled to be put up in Oklahoma this year, Branan argues, a sales tax on those turbines would yield more than $67 million.

Branan’s analysis has its flaws. For one thing, if the cost of installation increases by $67 million, there’s a good chance many turbines won’t be installed at all. We’ve made the same point about those calling for an increase in the gross production tax rate who act as though the added cost won’t reduce drilling.

But it’s certainly worth asking if the wind tax break generates enough economic benefit to justify its continuance.

Wind power’s defenders often counter that various breaks are given to oil and gas producers in Oklahoma. This is true (although several breaks are targeted for elimination this year). But the energy industry also produces a lot of jobs and associated economic activity.

If Oklahoma lawmakers authorize the use of long laterals in all rock formations, as is the case in Texas, it’s estimated the state will see billions in new investment and hundreds of millions of dollars in increased tax revenue for governments - without any change in tax rates.

In the first year, it’s estimated long-lateral authorization would increase drilling so much that $490 million in additional royalty payments would be generated, including $26.5 million for schools, colleges and universities. About $229.6 million in additional state and local tax revenue would be generated directly from the oil and natural gas industry. Overall, $5.8 billion in additional direct and indirect economic activity would occur.

Wind power’s economic impact is more muted. For the most part, associated job creation is limited to short-term construction jobs.

Legislative support for wind power appears to have been driven primarily by political correctness. Touting “green” energy is a cheap applause line. Admittedly, you can tax something so much that no money is generated. It may be that imposing the sales tax on turbines would eliminate such projects, which does nothing to address the state budget.

Still, one would think lawmakers might discuss raising the sales tax on wind power before suggesting Oklahoma’s financial woes are caused by people with large medical bills getting too much of a tax break.

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