Miller & Benge
From left, Oklahoma State Treasurer Ken Miller and Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge. (Provided)

I wrote an analysis last week of the 2016 Legislature’s outcome, arguing that the session could be remembered more for the things it didn’t do than for the things it did.

Days later, Oklahomans with far more political clout than me offered their assessments. They were dumb and dumber.

11 percent cuts? That’s about average …

First, State Treasurer Ken Miller’s office released the latest version of its Oklahoma Economic Report at 8 p.m. Thursday. The eight-page PDF includes several graphs, a commentary from Gov. Mary Fallin and letter grades for the 2016 session. Overall, the top headline notes the average grade given by Fallin, Miller and a cadre of others.

“Session report card,” the headline reads. “Legislature gets C.”

Let the lols, lawls, lmaos and lolz fly, as we all know “C” is supposed to mean “average.” The state of Oklahoma’s leading politicos think that a FY 2017 budget that yielded 16-percent cuts to the State Regents for Higher Education, OETA and the State Arts Council is “average”?

What about the 11-percent cuts to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Rehabilitation Services, the OSU Medical Authority, the University Hospitals Authority, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Oklahoma Water Resources Board and the Department of Public Safety?

Are those also part of the new average?

Some people didn’t think so. Sterling Zearley, the head of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (union) graded the session as a flat “F” for failure. David Blatt, head of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, offered a “D”.

But others thought all of these cuts and missed opportunities were above average.

Fallin entered “C+” as her grade, while Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs director Jonathan Small and State Chamber president Fred Morgan both offered “B-” as their grades. Speaker of the House Jeff Hickman (R-Fairview) gave the highest assessment: “B”.

Talk about grade inflation.


Alternate funding programs

Much of these ill-conceived “atta boys” seem based around the narrative that legislators held Medicaid and common education “harmless” this year, but things are rarely that simple.

Not only are FY 2017 budget numbers compared to the post-revenue failure numbers in the problematic FY 2016 budget, News 9’s Aaron Brilbeck recently reported on how money shifting will actually result in $33 million less for the state’s textbook fund and $40 million less for alternative education programs.

‘We hold ourselves down’

Hours after Miller’s office released its amusing report card, the Tulsa Regional Chamber of Commerce met Friday to recap the session itself.

Its chairman — attorney and lumber expert Jeff Dunn — complained that “nut jobs on the periphery” have too much legislative power in Oklahoma, as reported by the Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel.

Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge was in attendance and peddled the report-card narrative of success himself, albeit with a confounding reference to a book I guess the state can’t afford new copies of anytime soon:

Benge took issue with the assertion that the recently completed session was unproductive or that Oklahoma government is any more shambolic than that of other states.

“I would caution against wallowing in negativity,” Benge said during his discussion with Neal. “We hold ourselves down by thinking of ourselves as ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’”

What in the fresh hell is that supposed to mean?

Has Benge — a former House Speaker himself — not read The Grapes of Wrath? Did the themes fly over his head? How, in 2016, is a civic leader of Benge’s stature dredging up decades-old, ignorant criticism of classic American literature in discussion of how the Legislature functions?

“We hold ourselves down by thinking of ourselves as ‘The Grapes of Wrath.'”

Yes, by God, we Okies wouldn’t want to think of ourselves as proud, tough, family-focused ghouls like those damned Joads. And that dadgum preacher talking about Jesus, and Ma living out Christian ideals… those ain’t the sorts of things we should imagine for ourselves!

Perhaps Benge thinks Rosasharn should have just let that malnourished fella die.

He should have pulled himself up by the bootstraps, so why not?

State leaders would probably still give her a “C” in compassion if she had.