Here are some excerpts from recent Okie Funk posts:
The news here is this: Although President Barack Obama's approval ratings have fallen, the GOP has failed to rebuild its broken infrastructure after a stinging defeat in the 2008 elections. The numbers also show the GOP remains out of step with the majority of the country. Unless it can offer more to people than anti-Obama hatred, the ludicrous claims of “socialism, communism, fascism,” and borderline violent rhetoric, the party will probably remain in the minority on a national level after the 2010 elections.
Oklahoma, which has a growing Republican political base, is a bastion of the anti-Obama movement. If the GOP tanks again nationally in 2010 and Oklahoma Republicans make big gains, and this is a real possibility, will the state be further isolated from the national discussion over important issues?
Poll Shows National GOP Decline, October 21, 2009
The health insurance industry has lobbied against the public option, but a new poll shows that 57 percent of Americans favor it. Some possible forms of the public option would allow states to opt out of it and/or limit the people who could qualify for it. The wiser move would be to pass what some people are calling the “pure” public option, which would be available to anyone.
If people like their existing insurance plan, then they can keep it. If not, they could choose the public option. The government plan would have less overhead costs and could negotiate lower prices because of its size and clout.
The health care system in this country is broken. Most Americans are one serious illness away from bankruptcy. Rising premiums and co-pays prevent many people from seeking care and often a minor medical problem can turn into serious illness. Millions of Americans are uninsured, and many end up seeking care at hospital emergency rooms, which drives up overall costs.
Public Option Makes Sense, October 23, 2009
The state is facing true financial hardship. Revenues are 26 percent below budget estimates for the first fiscal quarter and most agencies are facing 5 percent cuts each month. Henry has said the state will likely have to use the Rainy Day Fund to balance next year’s budget and to repay loans for this year's budget, but he hasn’t called for a special session to deal with current cuts.
If legislators met in a special session, they could protect vital programs, such as the nutrition program, from disastrous cuts. They could look for deeper cuts in other areas, target priority areas for less cuts and then allocate Rainy Day Fund money. It’s understandable some state leaders wanted to wait as long as possible to tap into the fund, but the situation is now dire.
According to NewsOK.com, the cuts could mean some seniors will “go home hungry” on Sunday when the cuts take effect.
What does it tell you about a state that has $600 million in a savings account, but won’t use a relatively small amount of it to help prevent major cuts in an important food program for seniors?
The Tulsa World recently published an insightful story about the effect of the budget cuts.
Special Session Time, October 28, 2009
It’s vitally important, as Garrett suggested, to ensure teaching positions are not cut during this financial downturn. Teacher layoffs, if widespread, would obviously hurt student-learning outcomes. School children would lose out. Oklahoma already has underfunded schools, which has helped create low college graduation rates here. More cuts would be absolutely devastating. That’s not hyperbole
As I wrote in my previous post, the Oklahoma Legislature could meet in a short special session to deal with anticipated revenue declines, protecting, as much as possible, education, health programs and social services from deep cuts. State leaders could craft a new budget strategy for this year, taking a proactive rather than reactionary stance. The legislature could also use some of the state’s Rainy Day Fund to help shore up the finances of vital institutions, such as the state schools. As it stands now, the legislature will not meet until February.
Declining energy production tax revenues and recent tax cuts passed by the legislature that primarily benefited the state’s wealthiest citizens have created a real budget crisis for the state. Obviously, tax hikes are out of the question in Oklahoma because of its conservative politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, but at the very least state leaders could come up with a more specific and targeted plan to meet the current crisis.
Teacher Protection, October 30, 2009