Where’s the state budget plan in this historic fiscal crisis we’re facing in Oklahoma? Where are the leaders?
The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is reducing services for thousands of people, a bill has passed in the Oklahoma House of Representatives eliminating 111,000 people from receiving Medicaid, and the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is cutting a program that helps families with children who have developmental disabilities.
What will happen to public schools here in a state that has cut education funding the most of any state in the nation since 2008? That’s six long devastating years for public education in Oklahoma, and it’s probably going to get worse unless we vote in favor of the one penny sales tax increase proposal dedicated to learning in November. Do the conservatives in power at the legislature even care? We should absolutely assume at this point they don’t. They have failed us.
We’re currently facing a revenue failure, which means in more simplistic terms we’re broke and can’t pay the bills right now this month, and we’re facing a budget shortfall of $1.3 billion next fiscal year, which begins in July. Our discretionary budget, which is what legislators can allocate, has only hovered around $7 billion for the last few years, one of the smallest state budgets in the country. Do the math. So it’s a $1.3 billion and growing reduction from a tiny $7 billion budget in a state with our population size. The state government is incredibly underfunded as it is.
We’re as broke as you can get, and it’s all because of conservative policies. Conservatives here have cut income taxes to benefit the wealthy, shamelessly handed out massive tax breaks to oil and gas companies, and encouraged a fracking boom gone bust under the “drill, baby, drill” mantra, which has left us with the most earthquakes in the world and no doubt other environmental problems we haven’t even discovered yet.
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