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Archives for February 15, 2016

How To Create An Environmentally Friendly Oasis In Your Backyard

A love for the environment comes naturally with a love for the outdoors. Unfortunately, we can’t always take a trip to the wilderness every time we need a little quality time with Mother Nature. You can however transform your backyard into your own little oasis — just make sure to do so responsibly and with an eco-conscious mind.

Take these examples of environmentally friendly backyard renovations to create your own outdoor space that is green in more ways than one.

Become a xeriscape artist

Couple relaxing in environmentally friendly backyardNo backyard is complete without some trees and plants to keep you company. Keep in mind that not all green things are meant to grow in your climate. Find out what plants are native to your area and use those to landscape your yard. This will use less water, make your yard easier to maintain and create an inviting space for native birds and wildlife.

The use of native plants can be especially useful when trying to attract pollinators. Exotic plants can often upset the balance of wild plants and animals in your region, while native plants attract pollinators and wildlife that not only help your yard thrive, but your surrounding areas as well. Xeriscaping is especially useful if you life in the Southwest or other arid regions where water is scarce.

Composting and rainwater harvesting

To really make use of your outdoor space and natural resources, set up a compost system. Composting cuts down on waste and creates natural fertilizer for your yard that is chemical-free.

Also consider setting up a rainwater harvesting system. You can go the traditional route by diverting rain from usual runoff spots into an above-ground barrel and then using that water for plants and gardens. You can also, as the Landscaping Network suggests, use bioswales and grading to automatically divert water to where you need it most. You could even create a “rain garden” where you place plants that use more water around bioswales and where rainwater goes most often.

Upgrade what you already have

Your house may already have a high-maintenance lawn or swimming pool that make you cringe when you think of the resources they use, but there are ways to cut your carbon footprint with these things as well.

  • For example, replace non-native grass with wildflowers or shrubs.
  • For a swimming pool, install energy-saving tools such as an efficient pool pump and timer.
  • You can also install a solar cover, which warms the pool with solar energy and saves water from evaporating.

With any expensive upgrade, consider getting a home warranty, so if something breaks you can fix it for a reduced cost instead of throwing it out and buying something new. Reusing and repairing cuts down on landfill waste and saves money.

Decorate with recycled or eco-friendly materials

Of course you want to set up a nice sitting area in your backyard, but be aware of the kinds of materials you use in these features.

  • For decks, patios and fences, use sustainable materials such as bamboo, recycled wood and metal, or natural stone.
  • Buying used patio furniture or reclaiming or “upcycling” old furniture saves you tons of money and reduces waste. Plus, well-loved items have more character and comfort than mass-produced products.

With some conservation and creativity, you will never want to leave your backyard paradise.

Feature image courtesy of Chun Kit To (Flickr)


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Local Briefs: Garden Expo nears

MSC offering beginners Tai Chi class

The Manitowoc Senior Center has a new beginners Tai Chi class which will start March 1.

Tai Chi is a form of martial arts that involves slow, controlled and low-impact movements. Benefits of participating include relaxation and balance of mind and body, better balance and reduction in falling down. It also helps participants have a sense of well-being, helps fight the effects of arthritis and helps to improve circulation and posture.

It will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2:55 p.m. Because Tai Chi is a progressive class, new participants must start within the first few weeks of class.

Call 920-686-3060 to be added to the list of participants. Membership is required for this class.

In addition to Tai Chi, the Senior Center offers Senior Shape-Up low impact aerobics, Functional Strength stretching for arthritis, Yoga, line dancing/line dance lessons and Zumba Gold.

All fitness classes are available to members and have a nominal fee. Membership is open to those 55 and older.

March Mingle date set

The Women In Management Professional Women’s Network will hold its March Mingle from 5:30-7:30 p.m. March 1 at Kurtz’s Pub and Deli, Two Rivers.

It is open to members and their guests with each attendee receiving a complimentary appetizer and one drink.

RSVP by Feb. 26 to

West of the Lake Gardens presentation planned

The Manitowoc County Home and Community Education Group has organized an informational presentation about Manitowoc’s West of the Lake Gardens at 1 p.m. on March 2.

Don Cisler, head gardener of West of the Lake Gardens, will provide an insight to the history of West of the Lake Gardens. He will also discuss what it takes to keep the gardens looking beautiful all season long. West of the Lake Gardens contains six acres of backyard gardens located on Lake Michigan.

A lunch event for HCE members will also be held at noon with attendees bringing their own lunch.

To register call 920-693-8721.

Master Gardeners to present Garden Expo 2016

The University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc’s Office of Continuing Education, in collaboration with the UW-Extension Master Gardeners, will present its second annual educational Garden Expo from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on March 12 in UW-Manitowoc’s Lakeside Hall.

The Garden Expo will feature six different course options addressing various landscaping needs including butterfly gardening, water gardens in the backyard, seed starting, creative ways to keep a garden journal, amazing theme gardens and creative landscape designs. Each participant will be able to register for three courses. Presenters are local garden experts and each course lasts 60 minutes.

The keynote speaker for the event will be Green Bay Botanical Garden director of horticulture Mark A. Konlock, who will present “Cottage Gardening in Wisconsin.” Konlock has been the director of horticulture for more than 10 years. During his tenure five acres has been developed into gardens and facilities, including the King Shade Garden and Jenquine Pavilion and Overlook Garden, which won a Wisconsin Landscape Contractors Association gold award. The plant collection has increased to 3,370 taxa and 48,572 plants.

In recent years, the garden has expanded into horticultural science by becoming the only northern site for the Earth-Kind modern rose trial program in the US and one of 11 A.R.T.S. shrub rose trialing sites in the US. The garden is also an All-America Selections trial and display garden. Konlock has judged the Wisconsin Landscape Contractors Association awards, is a judge for All-America Selections and writes one of the “Hot Plant” features for Wisconsin Gardening magazine.

Area garden and home vendors will also be available for garden and home needs. Food and refreshments will available for purchase.

Tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door and are available at the Manitowoc Festival Foods customer service desk,, 920-683-4702 or

Felician Village plans caregiver classes

Felician Village will offer several caregiver classes for families throughout the upcoming year.

“Caregiver College” will help caregivers enhance their skills and knowledge of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. All classes will be held at the Village Hall, Felician Village, 1635 S. 21st St., Manitowoc, unless otherwise noted. The classes are presented in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association. To register call 920-684-7171, extension 329.

The first class for family caregivers, The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s, will be held 2-3:30 p.m. Feb. 26. Participants will learn the difference between normal aging memory changes and more serious memory problems.

Being held March 7, March 14 and March 21 and October 10 and October 17 from 2-3:30 p.m. will be Living with Alzheimer’s, which will answer questions that arise in the middle stages of the disease.

On April 5 and April 27 from 2-3:30 p.m. Legal and Financial Planning will be held to help attendees understand the value of advance planning and how to put those plans in place. It will be done in partnership with attorney Jack Cashman, Mozinski and Cashman, LLP, and Joseph E. LaForce, ADRC of the Lakeshore.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers will be held April 4-May 9 from 9:30 a.m. until noon at Aurora Medical Center. It will discuss how to develop self-care tools to reduce stress, make tough decisions and more. The cost is $10, payable to ADRC.

Getting Personal will be held 1-3:30 p.m. May 13 and will discuss home safety, fall prevention, hands-on personal care and moving techniques. It will be done in partnership with HomeCare Health Services and Hospice.

Alzheimer’s Communication will be held 2-3 p.m. May 25. Attendees will learn effective communication and hwo to decode messages through attitude, tone of voice, facial expressions and body language.

Healthy Habits for a Healthier You will be 6-7 p.m. June 7. Attendees will learn how to incorporate recommendations in the area of diet, exercise, cognitive activity and social engagement.

Powerful Tools for Caregivers will run 5:30-8 p.m. July 19-Aug. 23 to help attendees develop self-care tools to reduce stress, make tough decisions and more. The cost is $10, payable to ADRC.

The Basics: Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s will run 2-3:30 p.m. Sept. 16 and will teach the difference between normal aging memory changes and more serious memory problems.

Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters will run 6-7 p.m. Nov. 3 for attendees to learn the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, separate myth from reality and address commonly held fears.

Dementia Conversations will be 6-7 p.m. Nov. 16 and will facilitate discussion about convincing a family member to see a physician for cognitive screening or medical care and decide when to stop driving.

Felician Village will also offer classes for professional caregivers.

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Traffic Watch: Lane restrictions, closures on SR 826 and 836, I-75 and 95

Several expressways and other major roads including State Roads 826 and 836, and Interstates 75 and 95 will have travel lane restrictions and closures this week due to continuing or new roadwork.

On 826 (Palmetto Expressway), all southbound lanes will be closed between Northwest 154th and 122nd streets (West 68th Street) on Wednesday or possibly Thursday or Friday from 11 p,m. to 5 a.m. the next day for express lane construction.

Elsewhere on 826, workers will close some southbound and northbound lanes from south of Northwest 25th Street to Southwest Eighth Street to allow workers to perform roadway maintenance through Thursday between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

All northbound lanes on 826 will be closed at West Flagler Street between 11 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Saturday, also for road maintenance.

A similar closure of all northbound 826 lanes will take place at Southwest Eighth Street through Thursday from 11 p.m to 5 a.m.

Workers building toll express lanes on 826 also will close several lanes on different dates.

Among the nightly closures from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.: one northbound and one southbound lane between Northwest 25th Street and Northwest 154th Street Sunday to Wednesday Feb. 24; and one southbound lane just north of Northwest 103rd Street from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday Feb. 22 to Wednesday Feb. 24.

On 836, closures will take place on the eastbound and westbound lanes from Northwest 87th Avenue to Northwest 57th Avenue for maintenance from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Thursday.

Meanwhile, several 836 several ramps will close intermittently through Thursday from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.the next day for various tasks. The ramps to close are at the junctions with Northwest 17th, 27th, 37th, 42nd, 45th, 57 and 87th avenues.

From 6 p.m. Saturday to 6 a.m, Tuesday, workers will close the railroad crossing at Northwest 36th Street between Northwest North River Drive and Northwest 37th Court, weather permitting, to perform repairs to the rail tracks.

On Northeast Sixth Avenue in North Miami Beach, workers will close lanes at certain times beginning this week and for the next three months to carry out a landscaping project between Northeast 171st and 183rd streets (Miami Gardens Drive).

Another landscaping project will begin this week along I-95 between just north of Northeast 183rd Street (Miami Gardens Drive) and the Broward County line. Certain traffic restrictions will be in place for the next nine months.

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Harvest citrus fruit, plant caladium tubers: This week’s gardening tips

Plant caladium tubers indoors this month for a head start. Start tubers in flats or pots of potting soil kept evenly moist in a warm, out-of-the-way area. They should begin to sprout in a few weeks.

As the leaves appear, move the containers to a sunny window or shady area outside once days are in the 70s and nights in the 60s. Plant caladiums into the garden in mid-April.

Harvest parsley regularly by breaking off the lower, older leaves. There is still time to plant parsley transplants now for harvest through early summer.

Need cool-season color in a partly shaded area? The best choices are cyclamen, primroses, pansy, viola, nicotiana, lobelia, foxglove and forget-me-not.

Finish harvesting any fruit still remaining on citrus trees. The fruit stores well on the tree, but ultimately the quality will begin to decline. And leaving old fruit on the tree beyond mid-February may interfere with this spring’s flowers and fruit set.

Spring is beginning, but there is still some chance of freezes. Don’t let spells of mild weather fool you into planting tender vegetables and bedding plants unless you are willing to protect them if necessary — especially north of the lake.

Love to read about gorgeous gardens? Sign up for’s weekly home and garden newsletter, and you’ll get Dan Gill’s latest tips as well as stories about gorgeous local landscapes. It’s easy and free. Just click here. And while you’re at it, head over to the New Orleans Homes and Gardens page on Facebook.

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Garden Tips: Choosing which strawberries to grow – Tri

Let’s talk about picking strawberries, not harvesting those delicious red berries, but selecting which varieties to grow.

There are three main types of strawberry varieties, or more correctly, cultivars or cultivated varieties. There are June-bearing, everbearing and day-neutral cultivars.

June-bearers form flower buds in the fall and produce one main crop of berries in spring or early summer, depending on the cultivar. Everbearers form flower buds in the fall and again in summer, and produce one crop in late summer or early fall, or spring and early summer. Day-neutral strawberries form flower buds all through the growing season, producing a continuous crop of berries with production slowing during the heat of summer.

June-bearers tend to have the largest berries and produce the most fruit over a short period of time. This makes them a good choice for gardeners who want to preserve them by freezing or for making jam. Day-neutrals generally produce smaller berries with great flavor over a longer period, making them a good option for fresh eating.

Another consideration in selecting strawberry cultivars is winter hardiness. The plants need to be able to withstand the cold in the region they are grown. Some cultivars are popular in other parts of the country or even other regions in Washington, but may not perform well here. Look for hardy cultivars recommended for growing in the inland Northwest. Here are a few:

▪ For June-bearing berries, there are a number of choices. Benton and Hood are longtime favorites. Hood produces large fruit early in the season and is good for fresh eating or making jam, but does not stand up well to freezing. Benton produces medium-sized berries in late mid-season. They are good fresh and fair as frozen berries. Two other recommended June-bearers are Rainier and Shuksan. They are judged to have the best flavor for fresh eating and are good to excellent for freezing, although Rainier’s berries turn dark rapidly in hot weather.

▪  Popular everbearers recommended for eastern Washington are Quinault, Ogallala and Fort Laramie. None of these have great size, and the fruit is not as firm as other types.

▪ Day-neutral strawberries are my favorite. Tribute, Tristar, Albion and Seascape are recommended for our region. Tribute and Tristar have been around a long time and are dependable. They only have medium-sized berries but excellent flavor makes up for this. Seascape, a California strawberry, has larger berries with good flavor, but the plants are susceptible to verticillium wilt. This disease can be a problem in local gardens and will shorten the life of a planting. Fern, another day-neutral, is also susceptible to verticillium wilt and has not been tested for production in Washington.

If you want to grow strawberries, now is a good time to start planning what to plant. Check with your local nursery to see what cultivars they plan to offer. Buy dormant, certified virus-free plants for planting in early spring. For more information about growing strawberries, go to Berries for the Inland Northwest at http:// and Growing Strawberries in the Inland Northwest Intermountain West at http:// They provide information on site selection, planting and care of strawberries.

Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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London College Of Garden Design celebrates Graduate success

Emily Erlam

London College of Garden Design (LCGD) Graduates triumphed once again at last month’s Society of Garden Designers Awards with two Graduates receiving two awards each.

Emily Erlam won in the ‘Small Budget Garden’ category for “The Experimental Station” for which the judges said ‘A modest design that is fundamentally more interesting because of it. Simple but fun.’ Emily was also jointly awarded the Future Designer award for her ‘Interesting modern take on a country garden” built by Landform Consultants. She said ‘To win an award is an amazing feeling. For me the award was an opportunity to take a pause and reflect on the success of the garden and know for this moment, this garden was recognised for being great. ‘

An LCGD Graduate once again triumphed in the Student of the Year Award with Tom Massey, who graduated in 2015, winning both Domestic and Commercial categories for work completed on his one-year Garden Design Diploma course. Tom said, “having my work singled out and praised by judges Sarah Eberle and Cleve West, both multiple award-winning designers, was an honour. LCGD provided me with an inspiring education, hopefully winning the awards will provide the catalyst I need to launch my new career.”

Andrew Wilson, Director of Garden Design Studies at LCGD said ‘we’re delighted that our students are leaving the college with a firm basis in design that is recognised by the Society of Garden Designers. To have graduates winning awards so consistently is testament to the skill and professionalism of our tutors and lecturers that they meet on the course.’


About the London College of Garden Design

The London College of Garden Design aims to offer the best professional garden design courses available in the UK. Over the past 5 years LCGD graduates have won all but one of the Society of Garden Designers Student Awards and have gone on to win ‘Future Designer’ Awards and RHS medals at some of the Royal Horticultural Society’s main shows.

The College is one of Europe’s leading specialist design colleges and offers professional level courses including the one year Garden Design Diploma which is taught from the Orangery Conference facilities at the world famous Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew. In 2016 they have successfully launched Europe’s first specialist planting design course aimed at professionals that is taught over two terms from January to July.

Short courses are offered at Kew, RHS Garden Wisley, Regent’s University in central London and our satellite hub in Crewe.

To find out more visit
For more information you can also contact Andrew Fisher Tomlin on 020 8542 0683 or
07957 855457 or email

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Tropical Gardening: Air gardening for your Valentine – Hawaii Tribune

Are you looking for a last minute Valentine’s gift for your loved one? Valentine’s Day gifts usually are candy, flowers and, for those who can afford them, diamonds.

For most kama‘aina, flowering plants are another option. If your loved one likes gardening the easy way, you might consider a group of easy care plants referred to as air plants.

This group of unusual tropicals is technically referred to as epiphytes. The group includes many ferns, orchids, bromeliads and even some cacti. Although epiphytes grow attached to shrubs and trees, they are not parasites since they do not take their nutrients from the plants on which they grow.

Air plants have some of the most beautiful flowers and unique foliage in the plant kingdom. They generally require less care than most other ornamentals.

Many folks think air plants are difficult to grow but this is not the case. Our tropical climate is ideal for air plants that are virtually impossible to grow outdoors anywhere else in the United States except in the warmest parts of California and Florida. Here, many grow with almost no care.

Orchids and bromeliads are probably the most well-known of the epiphytes. Many species have been introduced. If you have a tree or lanai in which to hang pots, you can have flowers all year. All it takes is common sense, water and fertilizer.

When buying orchids and bromeliads, it is important to get healthy plants. Ask the grower or nurserymen about the particular species and its care.

When grown in containers, they will require repotting every two or three years. To avoid the problem of repotting, many gardeners remove the plants from the pot and attach them to the branches of a tree. Rough barked trees such as paperbark, monkeypod, calabash and African tulip are usually best.

The epiphytic ferns and cacti also can be grown in pots or on trees. The secret of success is to be sure they have good drainage. Fertilize lightly every two to three months to keep plants in active growth. But if plants are attached to trees, this is not required.

Several brands of orchid fertilizer are available. They are satisfactory for other air plants as well. These are specially formulated, and when used according to directions will give excellent results.

Disease and insect problems are few. If they do occur, our local garden supply dealers have fungicides and insecticides to quickly control the situation.

Give the air plants a try in your garden. Start with easy types including bromeliads, such as Tillandias, Billbergias and Aechmeas. Staghorn and Resurrection Ferns are easy. Dendrobiums, Epidendrum and Oncidium orchids will thrive on a minimum of care.

From there, go to the more exotic Cattleya and moth orchids. Local nurserymen can give you quite a few ideas about the types to grow and ways to grow them.

Bromeliads, cactus and succulents can do with very little water or fertilizer. Ferns and orchids should be watered every few days and fertilized about once a month.

Some folks worry insects might breed in the center of bromeliads, especially mosquitos. These insects can be more than a nuisance since they might be vectors for dengue fever and other diseases.

That is why natural insect control with lizards, amphibians and birds makes good sense. It also makes the garden more interesting. Anole lizards, Jackson chameleons, geckos, especially the gold dust day gecko, and tree frogs add to the tropical magic of our gardens. Many common birds also feed on insects, so including a bird feeder in the garden to attract them adds benefit and beauty.

To keep your bromeliads free of mosquitos, use a biological control that kills only the larvae. The tongue twister name is Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis. The easiest to use is granule form, and sprinkling a few grains in the center every few weeks eliminates those pesky buggers.

This information is supplied by the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. For further information about gardening and landscaping, contact one of our master gardeners at 322-4892 in Kona or 981-5199 in Hilo.

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Gas tax can help with needed public works projects

About this time of winter is when the weather starts to be tiresome. We get tired of running out to get the paper in the rain, of running from the grocery store to the car in the rain and the pain of clogged rain gutters. Yet we all seem to manage each year, looking forward to our spring with rhoddies putting on their colorful shows and the prospect of summer on the Oregon Coast, the best place to be.

We started the year waiting for the announcement of the HUD grant awards only to be greatly disappointed when we didn’t receive anything. After looking over the list of the cities that did receive grants we are still wondering why we didn’t and are waiting for that answer from the powers that be in Washington DC. Of course a reason why won’t change the outcome and won’t make anyone feel better about it.

Without the grant we need to come up with ways to increase the City’s income, it is imperative that we make the needed repairs to the city’s levee and streets. One of the ways requires some help from the voters of Reedsport. On the ballot in May will be a measure asking for a three (3) cent tax on gas for the months of May through October. For a 10 gallon purchase of fuel this would add .30 to the total bill. When looking at other cities on the coast who have implemented a gas tax, this could generate around $100,000 in revenue. None of us want to pay more taxes but this is a way to have everyone help pay including the tourist who come through town and use our streets.

Have you noticed the improved store fronts on many of our buildings in town? The Reedsport Main Street Program has provided facade improvement grants for some of the business that applied. The Mindpower Gallery has a new sign as does Back to the Best. New paint on a number of buildings and fresh landscaping. The nautical theme on the uptown stores is eye catching. Stop in and let them know you noticed and that you appreciate their efforts. The Main Street Program will be opening another grant cycle as soon as there are enough funds to do so. We hear negative comments about the appearance of our City so here is a way for you to be a part of the solution, join a Main Street Committee and let them hear your ideas. Katie Lockard is the Main Street Coordinator and can give you more information, she can be reached at 271-3603, ext. 217

Starting in January we were fortunate to once again have a School Resource Officer at Reedsport Charter School. Officer Trevor Gardner reports to the school every school day and I am sure it takes him back a few years as he is a graduate of Reedsport High School. His position there is many faceted: he is first a law enforcement officer, he can be a mentor, an instructor and a friend. Thanks to the Lower Umpqua Hospital, Reedsport School District and the City of Reedsport working together to bring back this needed service.

Reedsport City Council meets the first Monday of the month and you are welcome to come. We have a work session at 6 p.m. in the conference room at City Hall and the Council Meeting starts at 7 p.m. in Council Chambers. Every meeting starts with a Citizen’s Comment time where you can tell us your thoughts and concerns (a five minute limit please). Also available at City Hall is a comment form that you can use. Positive comments are also welcomed.

Many of our residents discovered Reedsport while looking for good places to fish or drive the dunes. Some moved here when IP was an active employer and I know of one couple who moved here strictly for the golf course. Whatever your reason, we have a good community and together we can make it better. Can we make it what it was 25 years ago, maybe not, but this is a great place to live and we all need to strive to make Reedsport the best it can be.

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A Look at Fallin’s Budget Gap Proposals





Oklahoma Watch


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, according to several officials and analysts asked to assess the governor’s response to Oklahoma’s fiscal crisis.


“Mary Fallin is doing precisely what good governors have to do in circumstances like this,” said former Gov. Frank Keating, a fellow Republican. “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 such as education.


Fallin’s proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year contains a half-dozen or so significant revenue-raising proposals, several of which would represent departures from the political status quo of recent years.


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 a State of the State 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.


“I commend her for her willingness to be open to money-raising proposals. She’s on the right track, but saying and doing are two different things. She’s going to have to put her reputation and the strength of the governor’s office on the line.”


Here are summary descriptions of the entrees on Fallin’s money-raising menu, along with the assessments of their financial impact and political prospects.


Sales Tax Expansion


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, something most Republicans and many Democrats have been unwilling to consider for some time.


“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.


“It’s going to take some real leadership up front to tell all the business leaders to ‘call off your lobbyists, call off your dogs,’” said Daxon.


Daxon and Keating said it made sense to consider taxing more services and collecting more taxes on Internet commerce. That’s where much of Oklahoma’s future economic growth will occur, but the state has not revised its tax code sufficiently to reflect that.


Examples of services that currently go untaxed in Oklahoma are residential utility bills, cable TV, barbers and beauty salons, car repairs, landscaping, health clubs and dry cleaning. Those and other services are taxed in some states.


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.”


Daxon said he thought Fallin would fare better if she accompanied her money-raising plans with the proposed elimination of some state programs or policy reforms that tax opponents would consider meaningful.


“Given the situation we’ve got, I think just about anything could be potentially viable,” Daxon said. “The deal is, what’s the other side of the equation? What do conservatives get out of the deal? Are we going to get real reform on something?”


Cigarette Tax Increase


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 5 or 10 years,” Inman said. “That will put us in the same situation we’re in now.”


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 fiscal year 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.


“Any tax increase would certainly have to start in the House,” Bingman said. “Three-quarters — that would be very challenging, in this body or in the House.”


Part of the challenge is getting tax increases through the Legislature in the pending election cycle.


Republicans up for re-election may be reluctant to support any tax increases this early in the session out of fear they may draw a primary opponent. Those Republicans may be more receptive to Fallin’s proposals once the deadline to file for a race passes. That deadline for state offices is April 15.


Raising the cigarette tax may be the least politically risky way to raise new revenue, Gaddie said.


“This is the most unsympathetic minority that exists. No one has sympathy for smokers,” Gaddie said. “In this state, Democrats and Republicans alike have been willing to do stuff to smokers.”


Agency Revolving Funds


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 during her address.


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.


“None of these solutions will be met with unanimity,” Jolley said. “If they would, we would have already done them.”


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. “All we’re doing is moving a funding problem from one area of government to another.”


Agency Revenue Sharing 


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.


“The more complex the solution gets, and the more removed the solution is from actually asking residents to pay more taxes, the easier it is to implement.”


School Consolidation


Consolidation of school administration will be a tough sell in the Legislature this year, especially because the conversation will spill over into a fear of closing rural schools.


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 districts.


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.


“If they are paying for it on their own, they have the right to do that,” Jolley said, referring to small districts. “When they are draining resources from other schools in the state, it makes it difficult to justify.”


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.


“It really must be a desperate situation to see consolidation on the table … This is true modernization,” Gaddie said. “We’ve been needing to do this forever.”


School Building Funds


This proposal would give school districts more flexibility on how they use local property tax revenue earmarked for school buildings. The money is supposed to be used for building repairs and maintenance, utilities and salaries for janitorial and maintenance staff.


Fallin would like to give districts the flexibility to use this money to hire more teachers and increase teacher pay.


Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, said he believes the proposal creates an incentive for school districts to increase their property tax rates to make up for the state’s failure to properly fund education.


“What we are seeing is an effort to pass the buck from the state to the local and county levels,” Sparks said. “That’s not cutting waste. That’s replacing the income tax with higher property taxes.”


Supporters said they believe the plan would give districts more flexibility on how to use excess funds and does not call for a local property tax increase.


Moving Forward


Hobson, the former Senate president, said Fallin has her work cut out for her if she hopes to win approval of her money-raising measures.


But she can’t do all of the heavy lifting by herself, he said. It will require an equal amount of political muscle from Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview.


“What the governor and the pro tem and the speaker are going to have to do is be like lobbyists, go up and down those halls, one on one, until they have the votes,” Hobson said.


“If the big three want something done, if they are committed to it full on, it can be done. They have the statutory, constitutional and political strengths to pass anything.”


DURING HER “State of the State” address, Gov. Mary Falling unveiled several charts, including one comparing total sales tax exemptions, which she wants to reduce, with the appropriated budget.

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