Budget Agreement No Reason For Celebration

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It’s important to point out the recent announcement of a state budget deal for this remaining fiscal year doesn’t mean all is well with Oklahoma’s finances.

As the OK Policy Blog points out:

First, even with the injection of well over $1 billion in stimulus and Rainy Day Funds to buttress the FY ‘10 budget, the cuts agencies are facing this year are having serious and worsening effects on public services over a wide swath of state government. Many agencies that took 5 – 7 percent cuts going into FY ‘10 are now looking at 12 – 15 percent cuts compared to last year’s budget, while even those agencies that were spared steep cuts going into the year are reducing or eliminating core services.

The blog, which is part of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, also points out the agreement between Gov. Brad Henry and legislative leaders left out some key details about how the 2010 budget would be balanced. According to the blog:

Given projected shortfalls of $809 million and cuts of $295.5 million, the question that still needs to be sorted out is where exactly the $513.5 million in additional revenue needed to bring the FY ‘10 budget into balance will come from. The leadership announcement remained short on details.

In a media release about the budget deal, Henry said, “Given the magnitude of the crisis we face, there really were no good options available to us.”

According to the release:

As part of their budget pact, state leaders have agreed to assign priority status to K-12 schools, higher education, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Department of Corrections, and provide each agency with a supplemental appropriation.

Will the pact hold up? The legislature convenes Feb. 1.

Another pressing issue is how the state will deal with a predicted $1.3 billion budget shortfall for next year. How much can you cut in a state that already is notorious in the nation for underfunding public education?


OK Policy Releases Overview

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Oklahoma Policy Institute has released its 2010 Oklahoma Legislative and Budget Process Overview. Anyone with an interest in state politics should download the overview for basic reference information.

It includes detailed descriptions of the legislative and executive branches of government and explains how bills are passed. OK Policy, a think tank based in Tulsa, should be commended for compiling the information. It’s an invaluable document.

The state provides a full listing of pending legislation. It’s often worth it to look through an entire bill that interests you or to go through the entire listing by titles to see what’s pending. Online repositories of such information make it easier for all of us to stay informed.

The upcoming legislative session begins Feb. 1. Legislators will be faced with huge budget shortfalls this fiscal year and next fiscal year. State agencies have been forced to cut their budgets in recent months, and the situation could get worse.


Newspaper Bashes Obama

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The GOP propaganda ministry—The Oklahoman—was in full swing over the weekend, bashing President Barack Obama with hasty generalizations and contradictions in an editorial.

But it was the obvious omission that seems the most absurd. Here is a newspaper, which has consistently supported the no-fault ideology of big corporations, criticizing a president, who has bailed out Wall Street to save the country’s banking system.

The gist of the editorial, titled “Obama policies are target of voters’ dissatisfaction” (January 24, 2010) is that the recent election of a Massachusetts Republican to the U.S. Senate shows how much everyone is angry at Obama policies. According to the editorial:

. . . Massachusetts elected Brown to be the decisive vote against health care, to help rein in government spending, to cut taxes and to stop the kind of back-room dealing Obama promised to end during his ’08 hope-and-change campaign.

Unfortunately, the pattern during Obama’s first 12 months has been him finding fault with everyone except himself, with George W. Bush the most useful scapegoat.

Some things come to mind here. Scott Brown voted in favor of universal health care in Massachusetts as a state senator. The current government has spent billions of taxpayer dollars nurturing the ideology that has given us huge, monopoly corporations. The current recession is completely the fault of the previous administration. This historic recession will always be the fault of Bush's inept leadership, no matter how much The Oklahoman and other right-wing media outlets try to distort the issue.

The editorial also doesn’t really consider how weak the Democratic candidate was in the Massachusetts election.

Yes, there is a lot of populist anger today, and, yes, Obama needs to pay more attention to it. But its main target, from both conservatives and liberals, are the big corporations, and this includes media companies, that got us into this financial mess in the first place. Americans know they’re getting a bad break, but The Oklahoman editorial page would be the last place in the world that would sympathize. It supports huge corporations and free-market fundamentalists, not regular Oklahoma families trying to make it through these hard financial times.