The Oklahoman editorial board went way too easy in a commentary Sunday criticizing legislators for conducting the state’s most important business behind “closed doors” and during the final few days of the session.
— BlueCerealEducation (@BlueCerealEduc) May 18, 2016
The editorial, titled “Lack of budgeting transparency hurting OK legislators’ cause,” makes the overall point that “. . . lack of transparency means many citizens and businesses are now being blindsided by apparently last-minute tax and spending plans.” This is true enough, but the editorial doesn’t even begin to hold conservative legislators responsible or accountable for the financial mess they’ve created.
Instead, the editorial makes some initial light criticisms and then lists some of the taxation and revenue issues the legislature has addressed, leaving out crucial information.
For example, it should be noted that some measures to increase revenues are actually estimates. If the revenues come under the estimates, then starting after July 1, when the new fiscal year begins, the state could experience another series of revenue failures like this year that would impact all agencies. Even if we can escape with initial small cuts what happens if fossil fuels prices don’t rise significantly? July 1, 2016 to July 1, 2017 has the potential to be even worse here economically than last year.
— KOCO-5 Oklahoma City (@koconews) May 22, 2016
The main issue, of course, is that there’s still no overall budget for the state, which faces a $1.3 billion budget shortfall. Schools, colleges and universities don’t know what types of cuts, if any, are in store for them. (Higher education leaders certainly expect cuts.) Some hospitals, nursing homes and other health-related organizations that accept Medicaid payments don’t know if they can even stay open with the large cuts that have been discussed.
Wayne Greene, a columnist for The Tulsa World, makes the point in a recent piece that University of Oklahoma President David Boren is facing a “payback” for having the audacity to try to raise money for education through his support of State Question 779 on the November ballot. That payback, according to what Greene described as “rumors,” could lead to a devastating 14 percent cut in funding to higher education.
But none of this gets fully addressed in The Oklahoman editorial, which ends by noting the newspaper believes House Speaker Jeff Hickman when he says: “I could not be more proud of the work that our members of the House have done on the budget this year.”
Really? Everyone should proud that conservatives approved a reduction to the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit program, which will hurt thousands of low-income families in the state?
I find it highly unlikely that conservatives at the state Capitol will change to a more transparent system or get away from the last-minute shenanigans. They have no real incentive to do so as long as they’re elected by people who vote against their financial interests. But let’s be clear about something you’re not going to read in The Oklahoman anytime soon: Conservative policies and ideology have broken this state financially and consistently embarrassed the state throughout the world. We may have reached a breaking point, but, then, I’ve said that before. Maybe there’s no political breaking point for Oklahoma.
Obviously, on a national level, the general election shows that people are angry and want change. Will it trickle down to Oklahoma? More realistically, can we get more progressives elected to office here and start to clean up the conservative mess? November is coming.
Oklahoma has a $1.3 billion budget shortfall. So they passed law making abortions a felony & will throw docs in jail https://t.co/H5dX62jb6g
— Sarah Burris (@SarahBurris) May 19, 2016