- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

A collection of recent editorials from Oklahoma newspapers:

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The Oklahoman, Jan. 30 - State Sen. David Holt, concerned that voter participation in Oklahoma has slipped through the years, has presented a raft of ideas to stem that tide. His colleagues at the statehouse should give his suggestions their attention.

Low voter turnout was part of the story of the November midterm elections, which in Oklahoma included the governor’s race. Only 41 percent of eligible voters took part.

Since 1994, Oklahoma has added about 650,000 people. Yet voter registration has barely budged, moving from 1,966,273 registered voters in 1994 to 1,978,812 two decades later. Holt notes that about one-third of Oklahomans who are eligible to vote aren’t registered to do so. …

Some of the proposals by Holt, R-Oklahoma City, may not generate too much resistance at the Capitol. Examples include consolidating local candidate elections to a cycle in the spring or in the fall, instead of scattering them throughout the calendar, and allowing online voter registration. Twenty states allow online registration; state Sen. Randy Bass, D-Lawton, also is seeking this change. …

Holt said he expects the most pushback over his two biggest proposals - moving to all-mail elections by 2020, and using a “top two” electoral system.

Three states - Colorado, Oregon and Washington - now conduct their elections by mail. One drawback is that results sometimes aren’t known for weeks after Election Day. On the plus side, Holt says not having precincts and precinct workers would save money, and voters would no longer be made to stand in lines. This idea is “most likely to dramatically improve Oklahoma’s voter turnout,” he said.

In a “top two” or “jungle” system, all candidates would appear on a ballot in August. If no one got more than 50 percent, then the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, would appear on the ballot in November. This would do away with costly (and often low-turnout) runoffs. In Holt’s view, it would lead to “more credible results.”

We’re not sure it’s the government’s job to drive up voter turnout. Regardless, “This is an important conversation our state needs to have,” Holt said. He’s right. Election reform is a serious issue that deserves its spot in the marketplace of ideas.

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Tulsa World, Jan. 30 - The fiscal impact of state wind-energy tax incentives on the state budget is getting increased attention from across the political spectrum.

We support wind energy. In the long term, and when handled with care for its own environmental impact, it reduces pollution and saves nonrenewable resources. But the size of the state’s tax incentive support of wind energy has has grown well out of proportion to the industry’s importance to the state or its ability to produce jobs.

An Oklahoma Tax Commission report of the costs of a five-year property tax exemption and the zero-emissions tax credit program for wind energy put the cost for 2014 at nearly $49 million. By 2018, the tax commission projects that amount to grow to nearly $77.3 million.

Every dollar that goes into a wind energy tax incentive is a dollar that won’t go to public schools, roads or public safety.

Two respected legislative leaders - Sen. Mike Mazzei and Rep. Earl Sears - have filed legislation to reconsider state underwriting of wind energy. …

Mazzei, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, points out that tax credits are meant to create a competitive environment for job growth and economic development.

“In order for us to be good stewards of our limited state resources, it is critical to reassess those subsidies to determine if the benefit justifies the cost,” he said recently. “Providing handouts to wind developers for simply operating in Oklahoma is not a sensible approach and should be troubling to our citizens.”

Sears, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, says he supports tax incentives as a general rule, but the wind program is too generous and must be modified.

“The cost of these wind subsidies is mounting at an alarming rate, and if we do not address the policies now, Oklahoma will suffer the consequences,” he said.

We support the Mazzei-Sears effort to reform state tax incentives for wind energy and urge the Legislature to take action on this expensive program.

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Muskogee Phoenix, Jan. 29 - Muskogee citizens are about to see the benefits of addition by subtraction when the walls of nearly 500 dilapidated structures begin tumbling down in February.

A massive demolition project is expected to begin by the second week of February.

City officials approved a contract with a local contractor who will demolish at least 17 structures every month during the course of the next two years.

Muskogee will be a much nicer place in two years when the last structure is destroyed.

The project will cost $1.9 million. The City of Muskogee Foundation awarded a grant for $1 million.

The remaining funds were raised by a five-year extension of a 0.18 percent sales tax approved by voters in June.

Muskogee homeowners will benefit when property taxes jump as nearby eyesores are torn down.

Officials also hope that the demolition project will spur infill development within neighborhoods that investors have shunned.

Hopefully, developers will see the opportunity to build homes in the newly vacated lots.

The demolition project has been around for years.

But it seems as if several structures fell into disrepair as another was being destroyed.

That’s because there was not enough money to stay ahead of the pace of decaying structures.

We can’t wait to see the results over the next two years.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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