With the legislative session winding down, it’s important to note that beyond some suggestions and the presentation of larger ideas on how to deal with Oklahoma’s budget crisis, not much is happening on the issue at the state Capitol.
Lawmakers have discussed wrapping up a week early, done every year since 2012. Can they get the budget done in time? https://t.co/RSyZmiHHac
— Oklahoma Watch (@OklahomaWatch) May 2, 2016
That’s bad news, although I’m sure Republicans, who dominate the legislature, would disagree that “not much is happening.” Well, I assume there’s talking going on among the conservatives, for sure, but where’s a realistic budget plan? What it all means is that it’s entirely possible that the budget and its $1.3 billion shortfall next fiscal year will get addressed at the last minute and before major stakeholders can address its specifics. This could be the tragedy in the making this session. By the time the fiscal damage becomes clear all the legislators will have gone home.
The legislature is scheduled to adjourn by May 27, and time is quickly running out.
Some of the ideas suggested by various legislators and other state leaders include ending some corporate tax incentives, “rebalancing” Medicaid by, among other things, increasing taxes on cigarettes by $1.50 a pack, and using bond money for road and bridge work thus freeing up more money for other agencies. I think it’s fair to say that overall all the plans or portions of the plans include at least some cuts for state agencies, including higher education.
The main problem, however, remains the general recalcitrant nature of the conservatives in the House and Senate. Elected on conservative platforms to “right-size” state government, their stubbornness is understandable. Gov. Mary Fallin’s particular use of ”the “right-size” jargon in previous years seems jarring and cruel right now as education, health programs and social services endure major cuts and are staring into a financial abyss for next fiscal year, which begins in July.
Trump says Gov. Fallin as VP is “great advice” but Oklahoma Democrats think that means disaster for our country. https://t.co/a1FYinqHn0
— OK Democratic Party (@OkDemocrats) April 25, 2016
This is what “right-sizing” government gets a state. The damage has been done in Kansas and now it’s happening here. Recent income tax cuts that primarily benefited the wealthy combined with tax breaks for big oil and gas companies have devastated the state budget. Now that frackers have flooded the world with a glut of fossil fuels, prices have dropped so low it’s dramatically impacting state revenues and the economy. Throw into that conservative mix the fact some energy experts believe the world has already reached its peak oil demand, and, well, financial disaster looms not just this year but for years to come in Oklahoma.
Conservatives, for the most part, just aren’t equipped or wired to deal with the policies and taxation issues that need vetting and discussion in such budget emergencies. It’s not because they aren’t intelligent enough to get things done. It’s because their ideology that tax cuts create economic boom times is hollow and has been proven wrong again and again. Ending tax incentives for big corporations or rolling back income tax cuts for the rich is an omission that conservative ideology has failed to deliver as promised.
Oklahoma has cut education dramatically since 2008 and more cuts have just been implemented. How can you create an educated citizenry that will reject deploying failed ideologies in desperate financial circumstances? This will sound negative, of course, but the clear answer is it won’t happen. Only education can get us out of this mess.
This is what our legislature is up to as the state faces a major fiscal crisis:
Great news as Oklahoma has joined the movement for a fed balanced budget amendment. Our 29th state! https://t.co/VPA7nttiju
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) May 3, 2016