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Archives for February 8, 2016

St. Mary’s set for Continuing the Heritage, 40 Days of Service

February 8, 2016

Continuing the Heritage Fall 2014University collaborating with Catholic Charities

About 500 volunteers from St. Mary’s University are expected to spread out among 20 sites throughout San Antonio on Saturday, Feb. 13, to do good for those in need – a huge effort through the biannual Continuing the Heritage event.

The spring 2016 Continuing the Heritage service day also marks the University’s participation in the inaugural “40 Days of Service,” Catholic Charities of San Antonio’s campaign to give back through service during Lent.

Continuing the Heritage brings together University students, faculty, staff and alumni to volunteer for community projects, such as graffiti abatement, yard work, packaging and delivering food and clothing for the poor, and working with children and animals.

St. Mary’s President Thomas Mengler will join Catholic Charities President and CEO J. Antonio Fernandez and several students to volunteer from 1-3 p.m. at the Guadalupe Community Center (1801 W. Cesar E. Chavez Blvd.), a facility that provides support and advocacy services to those in need.

“The 40 Days of Service campaign speaks directly to St. Mary’s University’s Marianist mission,” Mengler said. “We eagerly accept Catholic Charities’ invitation to include Continuing the Heritage, and we’re looking forward to having residence halls, student organizations and athletics teams help with other service projects this Lent. The 40 Days campaign is a great opportunity to increase volunteer participation, grounded in faith.”

Since 2003, more than 8,500 volunteers have offered nearly 50,000 hours to organizations that provide much-needed services throughout the area. Online registration began Tuesday, Feb. 2.

San Antonio volunteers will gather on the Flex Field at The Park at St. Mary’s at 11:30 a.m. for an opening ceremony, which includes breakfast and prayer, before beginning their afternoon of service. From 1-4 p.m., they will serve at sites including:

  • Escuela Magnetico at 1246 Chalmers St. As many as 60 volunteers will plant seeds, harvest fruit and weed/mulch gardens.
  • Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower’s Garden of St. Therese at 1111 Culebra Road. Volunteers will assist with a community garden.
  • The Neighborhood Place at 3014 Rivas St. Volunteers will assist in the beautification by painting, cleaning and organizing materials.
  • Roy Cisneros Elementary at 3011 Ruiz St. About 20 volunteers will help teachers decorate bulletin boards, shelve books, organize supplies and prepare class activities.
  • Dream Center San Antonio at 1617 E. Commerce. About 35 volunteers will prepare food bags and also put up drywall and paint.
  • San Antonio State Hospital at 6711 S. New Braunfels. The volunteers will be creating personal hygiene care packets for people leaving the hospital.
  • The DoSeum at 2800 Broadway. The students will support the engagement of guests in the galleries. They will also help support the “Share the Love” program.
  • St. Mary’s University Community Garden Students will help prepare and repair a neighborhood community garden on 36th Street to be ready in Fall 2016.

More about 40 Days of Service
In the spirit of Pope Francis’ “Year of Mercy” and the Lenten season, Catholic Charities and the Catholic community of San Antonio join together for a new campaign called 40 Days of Service. The goal is for every Catholic school and university in the archdiocese to commit to service during Lent and for participants to have a meaningful service experience by offering their time and talent to assist people in need.

Service opportunities include mentoring, organizing donation drives, stocking food donations, tutoring children, distributing food, painting, landscaping and assisting veterans and seniors. For more information on service activities, contact Catholic Charities at 210-222-1294 or email Paul Stevens at pstevens@ccaosa.org.

St. Mary’s University, founded in 1852, is the first institution of higher learning in San Antonio and the oldest Catholic university in the Southwest. It offers 75 programs, including doctoral and law programs, and has a diverse student population of about 3,800 of all faiths and backgrounds. Its vision, as a Catholic and Marianist liberal arts institution, is to become one of the finest private universities in the region, a gateway for graduates to professional lives as ethical leaders in Texas, the nation and the world.

Article source: https://www.stmarytx.edu/2016/st-marys-set-for-continuing-the-heritage-40-days-of-service-volunteer-efforts/

BWL to build $26M REO Town substation

LANSING – Plans for a $26 million Lansing Board of Water Light central substation in REO Town would bridge a divide between downtown Lansing and the historic district, officials said.

The substation will be located on a 4-acre portion of Scott Park at the southwest corner of South Washington Avenue and West Malcolm X Street, BWL officials announced at a press conference on Monday.

The plan calls for several area recreational improvements, including viewing and fishing platforms along the Grand River, a walkway from Washington Avenue to Townsend Street, loop trails connecting the existing pedestrian system to proposed walkways, and a new pathway from Capitol Avenue to Cooley Gardens, officials said.

It will also include a new staircase connecting the River Trail to Washington Avenue and wayfinding signs on Malcolm X Street, Washington Avenue and Townsend Street, they said. The plan will replace existing parking lots in poor condition and include new landscaping for the Scott Park.

“What we’ve come up with conceptually incorporates REO Town’s history and the spirit of Michigan’s capital,” Dick Peffley, the utility’s general manager, said. Peffley said Scott Park is in close proximity to transmission lines that serve downtown Lansing.

BWL officials said the 98-year-old Scott House, which sits on the site proposed for the substation, will be moved or razed, though its fixtures would be salvaged in the latter case. The 4,600-square-foot house is owned by the city. The project also will relocate and upgrade Scott Sunken Garden. It is expected to create jobs for about 75 construction workers during the life of the project.

Local approvals are pending for the plan.

“A regular substation was not going to do it,” Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said. “This is in fact a key between downtown and REO Town.”

The project is expected to break ground late this summer or early fall, and take about two years to complete. It will be paid for through BWL’s existing construction fund dollars and, on its own, is not expected to cause rate increases, Peffley said.

Proposed exterior building design features include an image of an Oldsmobile visible from Malcolm X Street, and large automobile gears and pillars reading “REO Town” visible from Washington Avenue.

The BWL will seek public input for the design of the substation’s exterior walls.

Officials said the substation project is part of Lansing Energy Tomorrow, the BWL’s major electric modernization program to replace and upgrade aging infrastructure.

The effort also includes a five-year, $101 million project, already underway, that will include new transmission lines, five new or rebuilt substations, a reduction in the number of circuits and the amount of customer demand at the Eckert substation and additional capacitor banks on the BWL’s transmission system.

The Eckert plant, with its three iconic smokestacks, must close by 2020 because of environmental regulations and the expense required to make needed improvements.

There’s a sense of urgency among BWL officials to find a replacement because the plant generates about one-third of the energy in the city-owned utility’s service territory.

In a survey of 400 residential and 300 business customers that was released last month, BWL found “strong support” for replacing the Eckert Power Plant with “a balanced energy mix” that would include a natural gas-powered plant and renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

The survey, conducted by Lansing-based firm EPIC-MRA, also found the majority of customers support boosting programs and technologies that improve energy conservation and efficiency.

The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage point. Results from EPIC-MRA’s BWL survey can be found at http://www.lansingenergytomorrow.com.

Contact Christopher Behnan at (517) 377-1261 or cbehnan@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter@LansingCB.

Public input

The Lansing Board of Water Light will seek public input for the design of a planned substation’s exterior walls 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the REO Town Depot, 1201 S. Washington Avenue.

Article source: http://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/local/2016/02/08/bwl-build-26m-reo-town-substation/80001824/

Using eagles to take out drones, geese replace guard dogs: Outdoors Oddities

The Netherlands national police force is considering a new, animal-related approach to dealing with illegal drones — using eagles to take them out when other drone counter measures, such as jamming or simply shooting them down isn’t safe or practical.

The birds, owned by a company called Guard From Above, are being trained at an indoor facility in the Hague.

“The bird sees the drone as prey and takes it to a safe place, a place where it is not disturbed by other birds or people,” Mark Wiebe, innovation manager for the Dutch national police, said in a press release.

Besides training the birds to pluck drones from the sky, Guard From Above is determining whether catching drones harms eagles’ talons.

The police will decided whether to move ahead with the project within the next few months.

OTHER ODDITIES IN THE OUTDOORS

* Geese make good guard animals — apparently even better than guard dogs.

At least that’s what police in rural parts of China’s Xinjiang Province have found.

 

According to a one report, a guy tried to break into a police station to take back a motorbike confiscated by the cops. The guard geese sounded the alarm, awakening the sleeping officers, according to National Geographic.

The idea is that the bad guys can distract a guard dog by throwing a piece of steak, or some other food at them. Not so, with geese — particularly the domestic ones..

“It’s pretty hard to give geese something that’s going to distract them enough where they wouldn’t make noise. They might make more noise if you throw something yummy at them. And once they get going, they’re hard to quiet down.”

*Is the survival rate of deer fawns higher in suburban/urban areas than out in the wild?

That was among the conclusions of a recent Ball State study.

Tim Carter, a biology professor, said “young deer are more than twice as likely to survive in an urbanized area as compared to rural,” according to a news release from the college about Carter’s study.

A deer with fawn at the Fayetteville Cemetery. 

In the study, researchers spent 2013-14 tracking deer around the area of the Bloomington, Ind. They collared 119 fawns with expandable radio collars, using radio telemetry to locate the animals and determine their survival rates.

They determined in rural areas, hungry coyotes caused 92 percent of the deaths of eight-week-old fawns. In the urban In urban areas, vehicle collision is the leading cause of death of young deer, about 17 percent, the news release said.

“We were very surprised by the sheer number of fawns able to reach adulthood in an urban area than in rural areas,” Carter said. “If it seems like everywhere you turn there is a deer, it’s because they are surviving at very high rates. But that is because of a variety of reasons, including fewer predators and the lack of hunting.”

An annual analysis by auto insurance giant State Farm estimates that the current odds of a U.S. motorist hitting a deer, elk or moose are 1 in 169, the same as in 2014. The crashes have become more expensive, averaging more than $4,100 per claim, up 6 percent from last year, according to the insurance firm.

There was no mention in the release, though, of the effect of rising deer numbers on Lyme disease or on gardens and landscaping — common complaints made by residents in Central New York communities where deer are a problem.

*Can an orangutan appreciate and enjoy a magic trick?
It would seem so in this Youatube video below taken by a passerby in front the ape’s cage at the Barcelona, Spain zoo.

The orangutan is initially intrigued at the man putting a chestnut into a foam cup before putting a lid on it and shaking it. The man then places the cup back in front of the orangutan showing it that the chestnut had vanished.

The ape’s reaction is amusing.

Article source: http://www.syracuse.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2016/02/are_deer_healthier_if_they_live_in_urbansuburban_settings_outdoors_oddities.html

Ditch top gardening tips advice, summit hears


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Article source: http://www.hortweek.com/ditch-top-gardening-tips-advice-summit-hears/retail/article/1382561

‘Garden Design Bible’ promises an Eden in any backyard or gardening spot

There are Bibles, the kind most people and motels store in drawers, and usually only dug out when there’s a need of divine intervention. Then there’s “Garden Design Bible” (Hamlyn, $19.99), so graceful and gorgeous, so bursting and blooming with patterns and plants and plants, that the tome will transform any garden into Eden.

Do you dream of transforming your back garden into a romantic retreat? Would you like to make a modern-day Utopia on your balcony? Is your ideal outdoor space a minimalist design with easy-to-care-for plants or a family garden with room to grow culinary herbs? Whatever your desire, the “Garden Design Bible,” written by gold medal-winning landscape designer Tim Newbury, has a plan that you can adapt to your own space. Choose from 40 off-the-peg designs or mix and match elements from several to create your ideal garden.

Each of the designs is fully illustrated and has a comprehensive plant list and planting diagram. With a huge range of plants, styles and uses, this inspirational yet practical book is the next best thing to hiring a gardener. A quick glance through this Bible and you will realize your horticultural prayers have been heard.

Article source: http://www.examiner.com/review/garden-design-bible-promises-an-eden-any-backyard-or-gardening-spot

At Large In Ballard: Notice of Violation

At Large In Ballard: Notice of Violation

By Peggy Sturdivant

I am one of the orange vest volunteers conducting a street survey of property parcels in Ballard. There are over 60 of us working house-to-house and block-to-block to review pre-1965 structures to see what’s still standing, and in what condition. Thanks to a Small Simple grant from the Department of Neighborhoods the Ballard Historical Society has consultants who have created an app and trained us to be able to survey and enter architectural information.

Since we were going to be on the streets anyway Project Lead Davidya Kasperzyk asked the GIS consultant Matt Stevenson of CoreGis to add a data collection category for exceptional trees. For developed property the city defines exceptional trees as those of significant size or that have historical, ecological or aesthetic value. The significant size varies depending on the type. Since we’re observing from the sidewalk we make our best guess on significance based on size: documenting trees that are still standing as part of a survey of historic structures is a bonus for the city. Or should be.

Although we’re using all the non-rainy daylight hours possible in February sometimes the difference between one day and the next is too long for structures. On February 3, 2016 there was a farmhouse that stood from 1900 until just past noon. It had a demolition permit. Exceptional trees are supposed to have permits before “demolition” too, at least on both developed and undeveloped lots, but they can disappear even faster.

In order to remove an exceptional tree on an undeveloped property, generally more than a foot in diameter at chest height or 4.5 feet, the city code calls for a certified arborist to determine that it’s hazardous.

The Tree Protection Code was part of the Development of Planning Development, which is now the Seattle Department of Construction Inspections. The City’s Planning Division Planning portion is now part of the Office of Planning Community Development. So what department now protects trees?

Sector 8, Block 28. Between a 1926 and a 1962 is an undeveloped but nicely landscaped lot, 7750 28th NW. We don’t survey undeveloped lots, defined by the city as without buildings. But taped to the trees were notices from Seattle City Light. Public Notice. Tree To Be Removed. Were the clearly exceptional trees hazardous? No. Not yet.

To recap, a homeowner needs a permit to remove exceptional trees. A developer needs a permit to remove trees. This lot is owned by City of Seattle, a former Seattle City Light substation. They do not need a permit to remove trees. Just 10 days notice that they intend to remove them, not because they are hazardous, but because they will impede Seattle City Light’s favored method of cleaning its former substation of pesticides. The trees are not even behind the fence where the obsolete substation was housed. If land by sidewalk was contaminated it wasn’t worth informing the public until the tree removal notice was posted. The public has ten days to comment, despite the fact that many of us have been trying to comment on repurposing substations for years.

How many times do we have to go through this with Seattle City Light? The sites get cleaned before they will be put on the market. The trees and landscaping planted, sometime with fairly rare plantings, to help them blend into a neighborhood is razed. Seattle City Light relies on an unchallenged ordinance to get “fair market value” for the property, even if it is interdepartmental.

“The Nation’s Greenest Utility since 1905” is what it says on Seattle City Light vehicles. There’s even a leaf in the center graphic. That always gets to me.

There are plenty of other ways to clean the soil that can spare trees like the Red Cedar and the ornamental cherries. Bioremediation would be less expensive but takes months instead of days. The site hasn’t been used since the 60s, what’s the rush now? (Really, what is the rush now? Is it the new director?) When neighbors made enough of a fuss at the former Fauntleroy Substation Seattle City Light used an air spade process. The Red-Bellied Sapsuckers love the trees that are still thriving there as a group tries to fundraise and keep it from being sold and developed.

A homeowner or developer removing an exceptional tree could receive a Notice of Violation, potentially followed by a Stop Work Order. Too often the tree is already gone, cut late on a Sunday before whatever department is supposedly in charge of protecting trees can be notified. The trees at Loyal Heights haven’t been designated as Heritage Trees but they’re special anyway. “Most cherry trees die young,” Plant Amnesty’s Cass Turnbull said about the showiest of the trees. “These are old and healthy. That’s remarkable.”

So back to the volunteers racking up 100s of hours surveying the Ballard lots, noting the trees, creating a product that will belong to the City of Seattle. Consider the Department of Neighborhood grant used years ago to develop a plan for community solar on another surplus substation, dismissed by Seattle City Light. What’s that adage about the fox guarding the hen house?

Can citizens present Seattle City Light with our own Notice of Violation? Can we finally get someone with enough guts to change an ordinance that effectively forces individuals to raise the funds to buy public lands they’ve paid for as taxpayers and ratepayers? How convenient that by spending less on cleanup Seattle City Light will create a lot more valuable to developers who won’t have an “exceptional” tree problem.

I’ve said it before, we may not have control over private sales, but shouldn’t we have some power when it comes to public lands? This former substation could be a P-Patch, some form of affordable housing, a tree bank, a community solar station, so many things other than an over-sized “single family residence” built to the lot lines. The note on the tree gave the public until February 12th to comment. How about a simple “no.”

Seattle City Light is a publicly owned utility that reports to the mayor. Contact the mayor’s office.

Article source: http://www.ballardnewstribune.com/2016/02/06/features/large-ballard-notice-violation

Santa Ana streetcar could spark new era of mass transit in OC

A proposed Santa Ana streetcar route, to run from downtown to the edge of Garden Grove, could become the first leg of a countywide rail system that would change how residents get around.

It also could highlight a long-running argument about how best to run local mass transit – by bus or streetcar.

For now, supporters of the 4.15-mile Santa Ana streetcar are happy to be part of what they see as a potentially regional project.

“It’s a game-changer for Santa Ana and ultimately for the county,” said Miguel Pulido, mayor of Santa Ana and a member of the Orange County Transportation Authority.

“It think it will grow,” he added. “But crawl, walk, run; you’ve got to take the first step. And this is the first step.”

The streetcar, as planned, will run through areas with existing bus services, with 10 stops in each direction concentrated in Santa Ana’s Civic Center area and the eastern edge of Garden Grove.

The project, planned to cost $289 million when built, has received environmental clearance, entered the project development phase and is under consideration for $144 million in federal funds. It could get full funding by 2017 and start running in 2019, according to OCTA.

But Pulido sees his city’s streetcar as the hub of a light-rail system that could connect the county’s core. And the currently planned route, in Santa Ana, sparks ideas about where it could go if expanded.

From its westernmost stop, at Harbor Boulevard and Westminster Avenue in Garden Grove, Pulido pictures a leg to Harbor Boulevard and Katella Avenue in Anaheim at the doorstep of Disneyland. From there, he believes, the line could run north to the Fullerton Transportation Center.

From the project’s mid-point, a stop at Bristol Street and Santa Ana Boulevard, the mayor anticipates a leg extending south toward John Wayne Airport.

It’s a concept Pulido is all too familiar with. About a decade ago, he was part of the CenterLine transportation project, a 9.3-mile light rail route that got strong local support but died from lack of federal funding. That idea would have served Costa Mesa, Irvine and Santa Ana and cost about $1 billion.

The potential for expansion beyond Santa Ana is one reason why, even now, the city project has a name that evokes the entire county: OC Streetcar.

Short-term, OC Streetcar could boost Santa Ana’s bustling Fourth Street district and improve economic development at the western end of the route. Of special interest is the Pacific Electric Right of Way, the areas where Red Cars used to run from Santa Ana to Los Angeles.

“You can see that, unfortunately, right now, it’s a 100-foot-wide abandoned street,” Pulido said. “We will be able to open it back up, and have landscaping and bike trails potentially, and pedestrian walkways and some greenery.

“It’s very different than a bus,” Pulido added. “Bus routes can change.”

On that, many people agree.

What they don’t agree on is whether streetcars or buses are the best way to move lots of people around the county. And their differences might make it tough for Santa Ana’s streetcar to expand beyond the city limits.

“Even in the best-case scenario, (the streetcar) will require a huge amount of local money,” said Tom Tait, mayor of Anaheim and, like Pulido, a board member of the Orange County Transporation Authority.

“I would rather see (that money) go to transit that we get a much bigger bang for the buck.” Buses, Tait added, “could do the exact route for the streetcar and add more routes in the county.”

In August, Tait was the one member of the OCTA board to vote against pledging $56 million in county taxes toward the Santa Ana streetcar project, a pledge that passed anyway and gives the project a better chance at getting federal dollars.

And even though his city also has a streetcar project in the works, Tait is a fan of rubber-tire buses. He voted against his city’s streetcar, too.

In December, he was also part of an ad-hoc committee that submitted a report to OCTA indicating Anaheim should scrap its proposed 3.2-mile streetcar route and, instead, consider an enhanced bus system that would connect the ARTIC transit hub to Disneyland Resort and Anaheim Convention Center. But the board voted to move Anaheim’s streetcar forward.

Pulido and others believe the $318-million streetcar project in Anaheim — called Anaheim Rapid Connection — eventually could link up with the proposed streetcars in Santa Ana.

For now, it’s not certain that either project will get built. Federal regulators figure to say yeah or nay to the Santa Ana streetcar in 2017. That’s when OCTA anticipates breaking ground on construction, a long-term project that might hurt, until it helps, local businesses.

Three commercial properties in Santa Ana will need to be be acquired for the project, and 120 parking spaces would be removed during construction.

Some downtown Santa Ana merchants, resigned to accepting the streetcar (many had advocated for a route along Third or Fifth streets instead of Fourth Street) now just hope construction will have minimal impact on their business.

“It’s like the saying, ‘hoping for the best and preparing for the worst,’” said Claudia Arellanes, owner of Mega Furniture Superstore.

At 62, Arellanes has run her store, at the corner of Fourth and French streets, for 27 years. She noted that most Fourth Street stores and restaurants are open during the daytime, and said that if construction doesn’t take place by sections or at night, “it could kill the downtown.”

“They say this is going to help a lot and it’s going to be incredible, that where there’s a transit system people use it,” she said in Spanish.

“Hopefully that will be the case.”

Contact the writer: 714-796-7762, jkwong@ocregister.com or on Twitter: @JessicaGKwong

Article source: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/streetcar-703055-santa-project.html

A closer look at Gov. Mary Fallin’s proposals to fix budget gap

Gov. Mary Fallin to Oklahoma lawmakers: We need hundreds of millions of dollars, fast. Here are my ideas. What have you got?

That’s not exactly how Fallin put it in her “State of the State” address to the Legislature on Feb. 1. But it’s the essence of what she said, said several officials and analysts asked to assess the governor’s response to the fiscal crisis.

“Mary Fallin is doing precisely what good governors have to do in circumstances like this,” former Gov. Frank Keating said. “It’s the right thing to do to put everything on the table. The worst thing is cuts across the board, because then you affect things that really matter along with things that don’t matter very much.”

The state is facing an estimated $900 million budget hole that could soon grow to more than $1 billion. It is also likely that the Office of Management and Enterprise Services could announce another revenue failure in coming days, setting the groundwork to deepen the 3 percent across-the-board cuts ordered in December.

In her “State of the State” address, Fallin told lawmakers it was time to find ways to mitigate budget cuts that would slash into core state services.

Fallin’s proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year contains a half-dozen or so significant revenue-raising proposals.

If no new money is raised, state agency cuts will average 13.5 percent, she said. If all of her proposals were adopted, they would average 6 percent. Select agencies would take a 3 percent cut.

Fallin’s revenue-raising plan contains elements that challenge the political orthodoxy of recent years. But it will take more than an address to push them through a reluctant Legislature, said former State Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson, a Democrat.

“Now’s about as deep a crisis as I can remember going back to 1984 and 1985, when oil dropped (below $30 a barrel) and we did raise taxes,” Hobson said.

Here are summary descriptions of the entrees on Fallin’s money-raising menu.

Sales tax expansion$200 million

The biggest single money-raiser on Fallin’s menu would “modernize” Oklahoma sales and use taxes by eliminating some unspecified exemptions, extending the twin taxes to more services and attempting to capture more tax collections on Internet purchases.

It also could be the most contentious. Every sales or use tax exclusion has a built-in constituency that will protest vehemently against losing its protected status. In addition, applying the state’s 4.5-cent levy to new categories of sales will be characterized in general terms as a tax increase.

“For her to come out and say we ought to look at taxing services or doing more with the Internet, that’s certainly a bold proposal, given where a lot of her political backing comes from,” said former state Finance Secretary Tom Daxon, a Republican.

Daxon and Keating said it made sense to consider taxing more services and collecting more taxes on Internet commerce.

Examples of services that currently go untaxed are residential utility bills, cable TV, barbers and beauty salons, car repairs, landscaping, health clubs and dry cleaning.

Collecting more use taxes on Internet purchases from out-of-state vendors shouldn’t even be considered a tax increase, Daxon said. The use tax is already on the books. The state simply lacks an effective means to enforce it.

Even so, any attempt to expand the sales tax base is likely to encounter immediate opposition from die-hard tax opponents.

“They’re going to say, ‘We’re not raising taxes,’” predicted Keith Gaddie, chairman of the University of Oklahoma political science department. “But if you spread your existing tax base to things not previously taxed, that’s still a tax increase.”

Cigarette tax increase$182 million

Fallin billed her proposed cigarette tax increase as a public health measure that also doubles as a new revenue source. Her proposal would increase the per-pack tax from $1.03 to $2.53.

Democrats pounced on the proposal as a sign that Republican-led income tax cuts are siphoning too much money from the state’s general revenue fund.

Rep. Scott Inman, the Democratic minority leader, said his caucus won’t support the proposal.

“Over time she is tying recurring teacher salaries to something that will be dwindling over the next five or 10 years,” Inman said.

Part of the decrease in cigarette tax revenue is due to fewer Oklahomans smoking, a trend the governor wants to keep pushing.

The state put $36.7 million in cigarette taxes into the general revenue fund in Fiscal Year 2013, according to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The state is projected to bring in $33 million this fiscal year and $32.7 million in FY 2017 based on the current per-pack tax.

Not all cigarette tax revenue goes into the general fund, with some of the money earmarked elsewhere. Fallin’s proposal would send all new revenue to the general fund.

The tax may also be a tough sell among Republicans.

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said it’s unlikely any tax increases will get through the Legislature since they require approval from 75 percent the House and Senate.

Agency revolving funds$125 million

Fallin would like to see the state tap into fees, fines and other revenue sources generated by agencies and departments.

Those funds replenish annually and could serve as a recurring source of revenue, Fallin said.

Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, chairman of the appropriations committee, said there might be enough support to push the proposal through, but it will be a tough sell.

The threat of an across-the-board 13 percent cut if the Legislature does nothing may provide an incentive to adopt the proposal.

The concern is that revolving funds are collected by agencies to conduct their day-to-day duties.

Gaddie and some lawmakers said this proposal does not generate new revenue.

“We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul,” Gaddie said.

• Agency revenue sharing $125 million

This proposal would require all agencies not receiving appropriated funds from the state budget to share a portion of their revenue.

Only 30 agencies not receiving state appropriations share a portion of their revenue with the state. That money is often used to offset costs of using other state resources or programs.

The agencies include the State Board of Pharmacy, the Securities Commission and the Motor Vehicle Commission.

Another 27 agencies don’t share their revenue. Those include the Turnpike Authority, the Grand River Dam Authority and the Lottery Commission.

Gaddie said the complexity of this proposal could work in lawmakers’ favor when it comes to appeasing constituents.

• School consolidationNo estimate

Consolidation of school administration will be a tough sell in the Legislature this year.

Fallin’s proposal would consolidate administration of dependent preK-8 schools with neighboring preK-12 districts.

Oklahoma has 516 school districts, 97 of which are dependent.

Jolley called fears of school closures unfounded. He added the state can’t keep the number of districts and superintendents it currently has.

Proposed legislation would consolidate districts based on their size.

Many lawmakers and political experts believe that if consolidation doesn’t happen this year, it’s unlikely to occur in the near future.

Gaddie said the governor’s push may be a big step toward making consolidation happen.

Oklahoma Watch is nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to oklahomawatch.org.

Article source: http://www.normantranscript.com/news/a-closer-look-at-gov-mary-fallin-s-proposals-to/article_08f5bd79-6926-5d9a-b9fd-45d71cbe76df.html