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.
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.
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