Weekly Opinion Editorial
REMEMBER THE FAIL!
by Steve Fair
The Oklahoma legislature adjourned Sine Die (Latin for no appointed date
for resumption) on Friday. The Oklahoma Constitution
requires lawmakers to complete their regular session by the last Friday in May
each year. The last week of session was
a whirlwind of activity. The legislature
passed a record $12.8 billion dollar state budget. $11.3 billion (88.3%) of the total is what is
referred to as ‘recurring appropriation.’
That means it is money they plan to appropriate from now on, barring any
unforeseen circumstances. They appropriated $3.9 billion for the state
Department of Education, a 21% increase over last year. Most other state agencies got slight
increases. There were no board-based tax
cuts- the state income tax wasn’t reduced and Sooners will still pay sales tax
on groceries. The legislature did agree
to tax credits for those who send their kids to private schools or homeschool.
Lawmakers spent a great deal of time overriding Governor Stitt’s vetoes
from April. They overrode thirteen (13)
on Thursday. One of the most notable is
HB#2263, which changes how the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) will be
organized. It reduces the number of appointments
by the governor to two (he had six) and gives the Speaker of the House and the
Senate president pro tempore two appointments each. The vote, in both chambers,
to override Stitt’s veto of HB#2263 was overwhelming.
The governor has until Thursday, June 1st to sign or veto the
historic budget bill. He has until June
10th to act on the bills that were passed in the last week. If he vetoes, lawmakers will be back in OKC
on June 12th, but they can only deal with the bills from the
concurrent special session. They can not
deal with legislation vetoed from the regular session. Confused?
Join the club. Three observations:
First, Oklahoma taxpayers didn’t get the tax cut they were
promised. Republican legislators and the
governor have been telling constituents for years they were going to cut the
state income tax…the very next session.
Yet another year/session goes by without a cut. It is reported the
governor is not happy about that, but after four months of session and over a
year of negotiating, the only loser is the taxpayers. Oklahoma taxpayers should be asking their
legislators why the tax cut was held up again.
Every Republican serving in the legislature included ‘fiscal
conservative’ in their campaign materials.
A fiscal conservative is one who advocates tax cuts, reduced government
spending, free markets, deregulation, privatization, free trade and minimal
government debt. Voters brought into their message. They elected them,
believing they would go to the Capitol and be a good steward of tax dollars. If
the current slate of elected officials can’t work together and get it done,
perhaps they should go home and let someone else take a crack at it.
Second, diluting political power makes for better government. Reforming the appointment process for the OTA
is long overdue. There are several other
boards and commissions in Oklahoma state government that should undergo the
same scrutiny. When one person is given
sovereign control of a board, that board becomes nothing more than a rubber
stamp to ratify everything the designator wants.
Third, Oklahomans should expect/demand more and better from the
legislature. Republicans gained control
of the state House in 2004, after nearly a century of Democrat control. They gained control of the state Senate in
2008. The Rs were swept into power by promising
to spend less money, cut taxes, repair the crumbling infrastructure and root out
corruption. They have consistently
failed to deliver on the first two. Republican
elected leadership- executive and legislative- must do better. Voters/taxpayers should require it.
In coming days, state legislators and the governor will be boasting and bragging about what they accomplished for Oklahoma in the 59th session of the legislature. Taxpayers should remember what they failed to accomplish.