budget negotiations
Lawmakers traded photo tweets and criticisms at the end of regular session in May. On left, House Minority Leader Scott Inman posed at the door of the governor's conference room. Two days earlier, House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz staged a similar photo inside the room. (NonDoc)

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, Oklahoma needs a visual essay on bipartisan budget negotiations worse than Twitter needs an edit button.

As the state’s special session begins a second week of budget negotiations with a plan reportedly put forth by Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahomans deserve photo evidence that Fallin, House Speaker Charles McCall (R-Atoka), House Minority Leader Scott Inman (D-Del City), Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Schulz (R-Altus) and Senate Minority Leader John Sparks (D-Norman) are actually sitting in the same room to resolve differences and come to an agreement.

While Capitol journalists love (read: hate) dueling partisan press conferences, the podium trading that legislative leaders have plonked upon the public since March has been sad at best and disingenuous at worst.

Sound harsh? Oklahomans saw two primary “negotiation” photos released by legislative leaders last May. First:

That sort of photo achieves little more than creasing McCall’s suit jacket.

Two days later, Inman answered an important question of how the door handle to the governor’s conference room got so sticky:

Now that lawmakers have been summoned back to the Capitol to do what they could not before — strike a budget deal for the love of God and the good of the state — Oklahomans deserve evidence that face-to-face budget negotiations are happening.

While Fallin has been praised by Inman for leading shuttle diplomacy over the past two weeks, she presented a plan to lawmakers — as reported by the Tulsa World — with more potential sticking points than an ungreased aluminum frying pan.

Beyond a gross production tax hike and termination of a manufacturing exemption that would only ding the wind industry, Fallin’s proposal reportedly includes levying sales tax on a mess of small business owners, some of whom operate mobile businesses in multiple tax jurisdictions without a stationary point of sale:

The proposal includes a sales tax on luxury services. Those services include: automotive washing and waxing; overnight trailer parking; long-term auto leases; pet grooming, carpet cleaning; extermination services; short-term aircraft rental; swimming pool cleaning; land and garden services; fur storage; tattoo services; and landscaping services.

Extermination services? Ah yes, how luxurious it is to rid one’s dwelling of vermin.

So what do exterminators, pet groomers, pool cleaners and lawn care professionals actually have in common? They don’t make enough money to employ lobbyists who can hunt down all the rumored negotiation details.

No, they are just common, working Oklahomans who deserve evidence of bipartisan budget negotiations from a farmer, a banker, two lawyers and a career politician public servant.

It would be well worth 1,000 words, and so much more.