Wednesday, May 15, 2019

House Dems, liberal think-tank oppose budget deal

In response to the new budget deal reached by Governor Stitt, House Speaker McCall, and Senate President Treat, the perpetually-aggrieved House Democrats lashed out in protest:

House Minority Leader Responds to Republican Budget Proposal

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, released the following statement today in response to the Republican budget proposal announced by Gov. Kevin Stitt:

“This is what a budget looks like when you decide taxpayer money is better suited to sit in a bank than be invested back into state resources like our children, state employees, and middle and low wage earners. Our state agencies were brutally impacted by Republican cuts over the past decade. This budget fails to make these agencies, including the state department of education, whole.

The Republican budget will now be voted on and passed before lawmakers have a chance to go home, talk to their constituents and receive feedback from the people in their communities. I hope those constituents will ask “why?” After being in session since February, and being promised transparency from day one, why didn’t we allow constituents more time to provide feedback?

In contrast, House Democrats put out the “Brand New State” budget more than two weeks ago. We took transparency to the point of posting a line-by-line budget on

House Democrats presented a budget that restores an Earned Income Tax Credit to more than 200,000 Oklahoma households. We have the only budget that expands Medicaid and increases healthcare coverage to hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. Our budget is the only budget that invests $90 million into the state’s infrastructure. The “Brand New State” budget is the only budget that provides a $2500 pay raise to state employees so that their salaries are closer to those in the private sector. We have presented the only budget that ends the debtor prison that exists in our court system, and it is still the only budget that fully funds public education in Oklahoma.”

Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt released the following statement on the budget deal announced today by state lawmakers:

Budget deal brings welcome progress but many missed opportunities

As a result of last year's revenue increases and a continuing strong economy, lawmakers had a historic opportunity to reverse a decade of cuts across core public services. This opportunity was only partly realized. In particular, increased state aid funding for schools, pay increases for correctional officers, and reduced law enforcement reliance on fines and fees will address some of the most dire funding needs for Oklahoma kids and public safety.

In other ways, this budget reflects misplaced priorities by lawmakers. Adding $200 million into the Rainy Day Fund, on top of the more than $400 million Rainy Day deposit already scheduled for the end of the year, is misguided while Oklahoma continues to leave so many urgent needs underfunded. Likewise, putting $19 million into a "Quick Action Closing Fund" with a poor track record and little accountability does not match lawmakers' promises of fiscal oversight and transparency.

Even with the state aid increase in this budget, Oklahoma's school funding formula will remain well below the per pupil funding levels of a decade ago. This budget plan does little to reverse Oklahoma's record cuts to higher education. It fails to restore the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for working Oklahoma families. For yet another year, the budget does nothing to provide cost-of-living relief for state retirees. It does not cover critical repair needs for the Department of Corrections and leaves indigent defense severely underfunded. It provides minimal help for mental health compared to the need and no new funds for many agencies that have been cut 20 to 40 percent in the past decade. At the same time, lawmakers have not addressed flaws in the new Revenue Stabilization Fund that could absorb every dollar of growth revenue next year.

Lawmakers still have time this session to restore the EITC, fix the Revenue Stabilization Fund, and make better use of this long-awaited budget growth. While any progress out of years of cuts is welcome, there are too many missed opportunities in this plan.


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