A few local media types took to their respective formats to bemoan the legislature’s lax attitude toward completing any meaningful work earlier this week, especially in light of the ongoing budget catastrophe, which prompted the Oklahoma City Public Schools district to slash $10 million from next year’s budget Tuesday.
They are showing up late and leaving early, issuing “feel good” proclamations, performing silly skits, laughing and cavorting on the Chamber floor, and seemingly counting the days until someone says they can go home to start their reelection campaigns.
Sounds like senioritis, or Nero fiddling while Rome burns.
On Tuesday, News 9’s Capitol reporter Aaron Brilbeck inserted some sly commentary into his coverage of legislative progress on the state’s broken budget. Emphasizing only 10 working days remain in the session, he juxtaposed the banality of feel-good obligations like listening to an award-winning high school jazz band with the fact House lawmakers didn’t take up a single bill that day (the Senate took up five). On Wednesday, Brilbeck only needed 115 words (including the dateline) to basically reiterate that nothing — that is, nothing publicly accessible — was being done with regard to the budget crisis.
At this rate, there may not even be a high school jazz band to honor next year.
Last, on Thursday, AM-radio talk jock Scott Mitchell took his ire regarding government inaction straight to the top when he criticized Gov. Mary Fallin’s office for declining to issue Brilbeck a statement regarding potential budget solutions.
“This is a colossal meltdown of leadership. Bottom line,” Mitchell said on his talk show Thursday morning. “This has gone on too long.”
And while the real machinations behind solving the current revenue failure are almost certainly in the works, they are limited to a select few at the upper echelons of state government (Preston Doerflinger‘s office, the State Treasurer’s office, Senate leaders, House leaders, the Joint Committee on Appropriations and Budget, etc.). So, it’s unsurprising (yet still infuriating) that the majority of legislative activity has fallen within the realm of business as usual during a fiscal year that has been everything but.
WTF: SB 1085 seeks taxpayer’s charity
In light of scant bill activity at 23rd and Lincoln this week, there’s an overlooked issue from April 21 that makes a relevant segue given the frustration surrounding the state’s financial woes as outlined above.
On that day, Fallin signed Romanian native and home-schooled Constitutional Conservative Sen. Nathan Dahm’s (R-Broken Arrow) SB 1085 into law. It creates a way for Oklahoma taxpayers to check a box on their state tax refunds and specify an amount of their refund (or other monies) to be donated to the state’s general revenue fund. It passed the Senate 35 to 8 and the House 64 to 2; it will take effect in 2017.
This is like paying someone money for a service but then discovering their work turned out to be subpar, only to have them come back to you asking for more money to fix their shoddy work.
Um, excuse me, Oklahoma government? WE ALREADY PAID YOU. That’s what state taxes are: You take them out of what we get paid and then use that money for things the state needs. While, in some way, we remain liable for your mismanagement of funds given that voters elected you to office, seeking potential solutions through the charity of constituents you have egregiously failed reveals an unmitigated gall and a “let them eat cake” attitude that is as insulting as it is injurious, especially to those who are losing their jobs in education..
A panhandler deserves more benevolence. At least we don’t expect anything from them for our money.
Budget-related tidbits from Thursday
Shortly before noon Thursday, the Senate approved President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman’s SB 1577, which would create an estimated $133 million for fiscal year 2017 through the elimination of a tax rebate for financially struggling oil and gas wells. According to a press release, monies would be dispersed as follows:
- $57 million for general revenue fund
- $22.7 million for common ed technology revolving fund
- $22.7 million for higher ed capital revolving fund
- $22.7 million for OK student aide revolving fund
- $3.3 million for county bridge and road improvement fund
- $3.7 million for Oklahoma Water Resources Board REAP water projects fund
- $471,940 for statewide circuit engineering district revolving fund
Later Thursday, the joint committee on appropriations and budget approved 13 bills designed to increase economic efficiency at the state level.
Neither chamber will reconvene until 1:30 p.m. Monday.
(Editor’s Note: NonDoc’s Editor in Chief, William W. Savage III, regularly appears Wednesday mornings on Scott Mitchell’s radio show.)