House Minority Leader Steve Kouplen Says Cooperation Among Rural/Urban Communities ImperativeWed, 13 Dec 2017 12:35:12 CST
During American Farmers & Ranchers' Rural to Urban Outreach Reception held in conjunction with the Tulsa Farm Show this year, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Associate Farm Director Carson Horn had the opportunity to catch up with Oklahoma's incoming House Minority Leader Steve Kouplen of Beggs, Okla. As a member of such committees like Agriculture and Rural Development and Appropriations and Budget, Kouplen offered some insight into some of the most pressing issues facing farmers and ranchers in the state today. Listen to their complete conversation by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
As we approach the kickoff to the special session called by Governor Mary Fallin, Kouplen says all that he can say is that it will begin on December 18, 2017. Kouplen says he has not had any communication with state leaders about the session or its agenda since he was first told about it just after the last session adjourned. What comes from it, he says, will be as much a surprise to him as it is to those watching it from outside the Capital.
Some of the issues he wishes to address during the session, though, he hopes will help solve the ongoing deficit of the state budget.
"We have reached an acute situation where we need the revenue now," he said. "We've promoted the idea of restoring not only some of the income tax cuts that we've had in the state over the last eight or ten years, but also restoring the Gross Production tax back to the historic level of seven percent. We have used that as an incentive for the oil and gas industry and it's time for that incentive to expire."
One proposed tax on the table, is however not looked on very favorably by Kouplen and his party - the suggested fuel tax - which he says is seen to be more of a regressive tax. But, he says he remains open minded about it, depending on how the money collected is actually spent.
"We have looked at the fuel tax negatively because in rural areas, it's going to affect people a lot more than say people that in urban areas," he said. "I don't oppose of the idea of that money going to transportation (roads, bridges, etc.). Lord knows we need money invested in transportation, but the original bill with that fuel tax was going to fund a teacher pay raise."
Discussion on this tax and how it will be used is still in debate, and Kouplen says he will wait and see how it unfolds. In the meantime, though, he says he will seek to find ways in which to expand rural healthcare - a growing concern across the countryside. Now more than ever, Kouplen says issues like this facing rural Oklahoma must be discussed openly and heavily promoted. According to him, this is the first time in Oklahoma's history that there have been more urban legislators in the Capital than rural legislators. He believes this trend will continue and says it is of great importance to rural citizens that they keep an open dialogue with their urban neighbors.
"We're seeing more and more urban legislators elected and less and less rural legislators. So, we're not really a rural legislature anymore," concluded Kouplen. "It's extremely important we keep in touch with our counterparts and explain to them the issues we face out in rural Oklahoma to produce that food and fiber they enjoy."
Listen to Kouplen and Horn talk more about these issues and why our state leaders should work to build cooperation among our rural and urban communities, by clicking or tapping the LISTEN BAR below.
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