Editor’s notebook: Schlafly visits, U.S. states face “staggering” deficits, Fallin administration submits controversial federal grant proposal

Oklahoma Eagle Forum will sponsor the visit of Phyllis Schlafly to Oklahoma Christian University this Friday, October 28. The event will be held in the Gaylord University Center, 2501 E. Memorial Road at 7 p.m.

Schlafly is a prominent national conservative leader and widely syndicated newspaper columnist. Once dubbed “the sweetheart of the silent majority,” she is also considered by some the “mother” of the modern conservative movement.

Schlafly played a crucial role in the unsuccessful 1964 presidential campaign of the late Barry Goldwater, including through her best-selling book, “A Choice Not an Echo.” She is often credited as leading organizer of the movement that slowed and then reversed momentum for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s. 

She has published the Phyllis Schlafly Report for 45 years, her columns appear in approximately 100 newspapers, and her radio commentaries are broadcast daily on more than 600 radio stations. Her other books include “The Power of the Positive Woman” and the new publication (with Suzanne Venker), “The Flipside of Feminism.”

Organizing the dinner featuring Schlafly is Bunny Chambers, president of Oklahoma Eagle Forum for the past 12 years. Eagle Forum is a conservative multi-issue organization that characterizes itself as “a national pro-family, non-denominational, non-partisan volunteer organization.” Among many other civic and political activities, Chambers was the Republican National Committeewoman for Oklahoma from 1996-2008. 

The evening will include entertainment from widely honored harpist Jill Justice and her multi-talented husband, Joel McClung. Also appearing will be Emoly West, Miss Oklahoma 2010 and 4th runner-up Miss America 2011. 

Cost for the event is $35 per guest or $60 per couples. To RSVP, visit okeagleforum.org .

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A new report from State Budget Solutions pegs California, New York, Texas, New Jersey and Illinois as the states with the largest total government deficits. The same states were listed as the worst in last year’s first annual analysis, as well. 

California alone has a $612 billion budget deficit. 

In terms of relatively low deficit burdens, Vermont, North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming came out looking good, although despite low deficit burdens Vermont also scored low in economic performance projection. 

The group put aggregate state debt at a staggering $4 trillion-plus. 

States with likely rosy futures, based on a decade’s worth of economic data, included Utah, South Dakota, Virginia, Wyoming and Idaho. 

As for future economic performance projections, the pictures for New York, Vermont, Maine, California, and Hawaii were rather glum. 

Oklahoma was pegged at an upbeat ninth place in economic performance ranking, but was all over the map in other rankings within the group’s report. 

Writing for State Budget Solutions, Andrew Guevara, reported this morning, “SBS takes a straightforward approach to calculating total state debt, defining it as the sum of outstanding official debt, pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) liabilities, Unemployment Trust Fund loans, and current budget gap. While liabilities are not actually debt, they are a stream of future spending obligations that states have committed themselves to spending.
“SBS calculated the total official liabilities for each state according to the latest comprehensive annual data available. The research also looks at the overall financial landscape for each state by considering top income tax rates, past economic performance, and economic outlook.”

In comments sent to CapitolBeatOK, President Bob Williams of State Budget Solutions reflected, “These deficit numbers are staggering and should be frightening to the American public. Due to budget gimmicks, many states fail to give an adequate picture of how much trouble they are really in. This report makes it clear that if legislators don’t act immediately and decisively, our country will be facing a budget crisis that we have never seen before.”
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Alex Weintz, Governor Mary Fallin’s communications director, contacted CapitolBeatOK to alert us that Oklahoma’s state government has formally submitted its application for a Race to the Top/Early Learning Challenge grant form the U.S. Department of Education.

The submission is controversial, drawing criticism from both Oklahoma conservatives and the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C..

The submission was crafted by Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi on behalf of Governor Fallin, with the help of state Cabinet Education Secretary Phyllis Hudecki. 

The federal agency has said decisions on state grant awards will be made by the end of 2011.