Tax Cuts Before Children?

Image of Mary Fallin

Let’s hope the new, relatively costly plan to improve child welfare programs at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services will make legislators and Gov. Mary Fallin reconsider their proposed draconian income tax cut.

How can you produce at least $100 million a year more in funding for DHS and also slash the tax rate from 5.25 to 2.5 percent in one year without major cuts in other areas of government, including education?

The Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan, announced last week, shows exactly why the state simply can’t afford an income tax cut of any kind right now. The plan is part of a lawsuit settlement in an action brought by Children’s Rights, a New York advocacy group, against DHS for the way the state agency had treated children under its care.

Under the plan, DHS would hire at least 100 more child welfare workers and 20 supervisors. The state would also heavily recruit more foster parents so more children could stay out of shelters. DHS would also improve its training methods, which could raise costs. The overall cost has been estimated at $100 million a year.

Here’s the plan.

Some of the money could come from savings in other areas of DHS, according to media reports, but the fact remains the lawsuit clearly showed the state has not invested enough money in caring for its most vulnerable citizens. Meanwhile education funding has decreased substantially in recent years because of the economic downturn starting in 2008 and previous tax cuts for the state’s wealthiest residents. This, too, hurts children.

So let’s be clear: State legislators want to cut taxes that will primarily benefit the wealthy even as the state is legally and morally forced to spend more money taking care of children, many of whom are abused and mistreated. The legislators also want to cut taxes for the rich knowing it will lead to more cuts for public schools.

Here are a couple of questions: Will the GOP-dominated legislature even fund the plan in its entirety? Will the plan even get approved as part of the settlement given the legislature’s current focus on cutting taxes for rich people?

The Oklahoma Pinnacle Plan is a huge red flag when it comes to the proposed tax cut plans, which are outlined here by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Fallin, pictured right, who will be seen soon in television advertisements recruiting foster parents, made cutting the income tax a cornerstone of her state of the state address when the legislature convened. Now she’s promoting a plan that seems to directly undercut her message.