(I’m running excerpts from posts this week as part of my annual review. This is the second of four 2016 year-in-review posts. Click on the link below the excerpt to read the full post. All these posts appeared on Blue Oklahoma and its companion blog Okie Funk. Simply put, the year 2016, as defined in posts on this blog, now in its thirteenth year, wasn’t a good one for Oklahoma in any general sense. From the state’s continuing earthquake crisis to a state budget shortfall that led to a nearly 16 percent funding cut for higher education to the typical right-wing theatrics of a Republican-dominated legislature, 2016 has become, in my mind, perhaps one of the worst years in state history, culminating in the coming presidency of the authoritarian yet unpredictable Donald Trump. These are not normal times here or throughout the country, and the uncertainty of what might happen in the coming year has many people afraid and depressed. We need independent media voices now more than ever. Thanks for reading the blog, and don’t give up the progressive fight in 2017.—Kurt Hochenauer)
I think there’s a real chance for some progressive gains this election season in Oklahoma for a variety of reasons, but it’s probably not going to happen if liberals spend money and energy supporting The Oklahoma Observer in its present form, or The Oklahoma Policy Institute in any form whatsoever.
One reason for the “chance,” and, yes, it’s just a slight chance, is that the national Republican Party is a real mess right now with the Trump and Cruz spectacles. Many conservatives are bewildered and confused. This confusion may trickle down to minor, local elections in which Democrats and liberals—in Oklahoma, folks, they aren’t the same thing—are speaking out boldly and sensibly about, say, funding for schools or trying to prevent elderly people from getting kicked out of nursing homes.
The other reason for the chance is that Oklahoma conservative leaders have absolutely broken this state with their careless, reckless fiscal policies. The economy is sinking here, the state is in a revenue failure, and we’re facing a $1.3 billion budget shortfall in a tiny overall discretionary budget of less than $7 or $6 billion or so. I know there are some not-so-smart people in the Oklahoma leadership pool, such as David Blatt, but it’s so so obvious the conservatives have damaged this state in a major way. Everyone gets it even if they relish it, like they do at the conservative Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and The Oklahoman. I bet Blatt loves it, too.
Just for reference, here was the headline over the main NewsOK.com story about the budget agreement announcement: “Oklahoma legislative leaders say new budget protects education, health.”
Let’s be clear that the budget does not protect any vital agency, such as the Department of Human Services, or any educational system or any health program in the state. It’s predicated on estimates and perceptions of future revenues. It cuts higher education by a staggering 15.9 percent over last year, and appropriates $60 million less over last year for K-12 public education, which has experienced severe cuts already. Common education did NOT receive flat funding like the conservatives want you to believe.There were no teacher raises, of course. Again, if revenues drop this coming fiscal year below estimates, the cuts will begin anew, and this time they could begin earlier in the budget year.
. . .
The nearly $6.8 billion budget, a conservative morass created in last-minute deals and bitterness, is a mighty mess of epic proportions. It doesn’t protect. It devastates. It dumbs down the state. It hurts the poor by reducing the Earned Income Tax Credit. It uses one-time revenues that probably won’t be available next fiscal year, consequently setting up a future budget crisis that could match or even exceed the disaster conservatives created this year.
Budget Deal Protects Nothing, May 27, 2016
Russell, a Republican who represents Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district, is trying to get an amendment inserted into the defense bill that would allow contractors to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people because of religious beliefs. His efforts have apparently generated much controversy and acrimony among his colleagues.</
The amendment, itself, seems innocuous. It states the federal government when doing business with religious organizations must comply with sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the American Disabilities Act of 1990. The Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on religion, and the American Disabilities Act allows religious organizations to hire employees based on shared religious beliefs.
In other words, Russell is trying sneak around the 2014 executive order issued by President Barack Obama, which does the opposite of the amendment. The executive order prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against the LGBT community.
According to a published report, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat from New York, had this to say about Russell’s amendment: “This is about bigotry, plain and simple.” Other Democrats and organizations also oppose the amendment.
Russell Unveils Anti-LGBT Agenda In Washington, June 1, 2016