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.
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.
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.
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