Dank advocates tax relief, especially for senior citizens

By Patrick B. McGuigan

David Dank, state representative for district 85 in MidTown and the near-north side of Oklahoma City, is still pressing on the issue that has dominated much of his service at the state Capitol: “My big issue is property taxes and my concerns for senior citizens. That always has been my priority and it always will be. The situation we have today is of the sort that led to the Boston Tea Party in the founding generation of our country. You have people who have managed to own their home, but now are unemployed, handicapped, on a fixed income or have reached their senior years, and they face a 5% annual increase in their property tax burden.”

Dank’s bills, HJR 1001 and HJR 1002, would address the issue, freezing taxes for homeowners over 65, and lowering overall property tax hikes at 2% annually.

Dank calls himself, “a practical realist. My object is tax relief for all, but especially for those who need it the most, the jobless, the disabled or those facing impossible situations in the current economy. It may seem to some like the amount of money involved is not a lot, but not a lot of money to one person can be a lot to another one.” He also hopes to eliminate capital gains taxes on senior citizens.

Dank is also concerned about Indian tribal tax advantages in competition with other state businesses. He is involved in several efforts to reform state voting procedures, “including registration and election procedures. It seems to me that we should all support the idea that those who vote ought to be legal voters.” He also wants to improve methods for verifying late registrants and allowing candidates to communicate with those voters.

There is no way of knowing in a timely way, under current voting procedures, if something is voting early or has voted absentee then turns around and also votes in person. With computers and technology you’d think this would be something we can check on. There has to be some way to do this.

Another thing: Candidates running for office have no way to communicate with late registering voters. We have to preserve the right to vote, the right to communicate and also the sanctity of the ballot, it’s a question of basic honesty.

Dank has other proposals that would revise campaign finance provisions. His Clean Campaign Act of 2009 would more strictly define the term “individual in terms of Indian tribes, LLCs and true individuals, for purposes of campaign donations. Another provision would provide that you cannot roll over money from the campaign fund for one office into another one. You would have to refund the money and then people could contribute it back again. The measure would also put PAC to PAC transfers into the criminal statutes. It would impose stricter penalties and allow DAs to act … without involvement of the Ethics Commission.”

Rep. Dank backs a constitutional amendment to allow corporate campaign contributions. That “seems to be the only way to have even-handedness in terms of the tribes, who face no controls, and businesses. The key thing is disclosure and the tribes don’t have to report like an individual does. So, this allows corporate money but requires that it be reported. It levels the playing field.”

From his work on education-focused committees, Dank said he expects to push school district restructuring, as he has advocated in the past, to shift education resources from administration and into classrooms. Dank also serves on the impotant Appropriations Human Resources panel.

In the “big picture” for this year, he believes, “The [revenue] shortfall is going to define everything, or nearly everything, this session. There’s a good chance we’ll have a shorter session than normal.”

He reflects that the new Republican control of the state Senate is “extremely important; it’s just huge. The governor will also have to make some tough decisions.”

Dank plans to advance pay increases “for certain state employees, e.g. case workers and prison guards. We have to squeeze some money out of the budget for that even while we might need to freeze the top end pay. That’s a priority of mine, one of the most important things we could do would be to pay rank and file employees better.”

He also has been a Republican voice for better coverage of autism, reflecting, “I know that doing nothing is not good enough for me. We are working on so many health care problems and we just have to figure out how to treat these children better. To me, it is one issue that ought to be completely separate from politics.”