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Do Not Use “Slight of Hand” to Balance Oklahoma’s Budget

March 11, 2015

In this legislative session, there has been very little attention paid by our legislators to the $611.3 Million shortfall for the 2016 budget. This shortfall cannot be totally blamed on the continuing energy production crisis in Oklahoma. There are many reasons for this shortfall of projected funds. Correcting some of the causes would be as simple as canceling scheduled cuts to the top income tax bracket, stopping pointless tax breaks (i.e., a double deduction on state income taxes), eliminating loopholes in corporate income taxes, adjusting the uncapped quality-job subsidies and using part of the “rainy day” fund.
Even with this projected shortfall, the governor has proposed a 2016 budget with an increase of 0.4% over this year’s budget. The 2016 proposal either provides a miniscule increase or remains the same as our 2015 budget for education, healthcare, human services, public safety, and transportation. The governor’s budget proposal does not come close to closing the gap on teachers’ pay, public safety officials’ pay and, for that matter, all state employees. Those in charge of our state government need to remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”
Today, what we are paying for is a D+ educational system and a less than adequate health care system which, currently, leaves more than 150,000 Oklahomans with only the Hospital Emergency Room to go to for healthcare.
At the same time, 55 other agencies will have their budgets cut again by 6.25% in 2016. Oklahoma Policy Institute reports how the 2016 budget cuts will compare to the fiscal year 2009 during the financial recession. 2016 reductions are shown as follows:
The State Bureau of Investigation – 22.3% less.
Department of Environmental Quality – 31.3% less.
Department of Tourism and Recreation – 30.9% less
Department of Agriculture – 29.9% less.
Oklahoma Center for Advancement of Science and Technology – 29.8% less.
Arts Council – 31.1% less.
Historical Society – 24.8% less.
Office of Disability Concerns – 31.9% less.
The severity of the cuts to these departments’ budgets for fiscal year 2016 does not take into account the effects of inflation, increased population and higher number of caseloads.
Each day, we hear about the overflow of inmates in our state prisons and the 40% of security positions not filled at these institutions. Two remedies for this problem that could be put into effect immediately are (1) Raising the sub-par rate of pay for prison security personnel and (2) Overhauling the judicial system as it pertains to nonviolent offenders. Treatment is always cheaper than incarceration.
Gov. Fallin proposes to balance her budget for next year with “transfers from agency revolving funds.” The 2014 Legislature was admonished by the Attorney General’s office – not once but twice – that they could not transfer funds from most revolving agency funds to balance their budget. In one case, the basis for the Attorney General’s Constitutional opinion was, “No tax levied and collected for one purpose shall ever be diverted to another purpose.” Agency revolving funds are statutorily designated and most are specific to a purpose. They are levied by the Oklahoma Legislature and collected via “user fees”, “taxes” and “other charges” rather than a system of progressive taxation instead of regressive taxation
The Stephens County Democratic Party will hold there Biennial Precinct Convention on Thursday, March 12, 2015, in the China One Restaurant‘s Meeting Room, 2305 N. Highway. 81, Duncan Oklahoma. The meeting will start at 7:00PM to conduct the business of electing precinct leaders for the next two years. Efforts put forward by participating in this election process will serve us well as we move forward in 2016, electing Democrats to represent us in Oklahoma and at our nation’s capitol! This convention will be your only chance to pick leaders who will steer our party until March of 2017! All registered Democrats are urged to take this first step toward establishing a platform for our party in Stephens County.


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