March 19th, 2017
Oklahoma’s budget situation keeps getting more desperate. The Legislature has a $715 million shortfall for next year’s budget compared to this year. Agency directors have been asked by the House budget chair to prepare scenarios for how to handle across-the-board cuts as great as 15 percent — and they are warning of “crippling” cuts to core services in public safety, health care, human services, and education, areas that are critical building blocks for security and opportunity in our communities. Rural areas and small towns could be especially hard hit by the possible closure of hospitals, nursing homes, regional universities, schools, and state parks.
Oklahoma has already made among the deepest cuts in the nation in state support for public schools. We’ve slashed funding for higher education at a time when a college degree is more important than ever. We’ve cut services for Oklahomans with mental illness and disabilities. Without supplemental funds, the Department of Human Services will run out of money in April for critical home- and community-based services for vulnerable seniors and individuals with disabilities. We cannot cut deeper!
The good news is that many state leaders — including Governor Mary Fallin, Treasurer Ken Miller, House Appropriations Chair Leslie Osborn and Minority Leader Scott Inman — have recognized that we cannot responsibly cut our way out of this budget hole. They are among those calling for new recurring revenues to balance this year’s budget and address our structural budget deficit.
There are solutions. But these solution will require lawmakers to take sensible action to raise new revenues. And for that to happen, legislators must hear from you.
Now’s the time to contact your Senator and Representative — by phone, email, or in person, if possible — and insist that they support fair and responsible options to raise new revenues and avoid devastating budget cuts. Let your legislators know how you, your family, and community have been affected by budget cuts and what the impact of deeper cuts would be. They need to hear that this is an urgent situation and that they must take action.
Here are a few revenue ideas we encourage you to recommend when you reach out to legislators:
- Partially offset the income tax cuts of the past decade by assessing a high-income surcharge;
- Eliminate the capital gains tax break;
- Restore the 7 percent tax rate on gross production;
- Adopt combined corporate reporting;
- Raise the cigarette tax.
You can learn more about these revenue options, as well as several other proposals, on OK Policy’s website. You can also download our two-page fact sheet, “Revenue options for a better budget.” For additional suggestions on how to advocate for a better budget, please see this recent blog post from Together Oklahoma. You can find your legislators’ contact information here. Please also contact these legislative leaders and insist that they craft a budget that puts Oklahomans first:
- Rep. Charles McCall, House Speaker: firstname.lastname@example.org; (405) 557-7412
- Rep. Leslie Osborn, House Appropriations and Budget Chair: email@example.com (405) 557-7333
- Sen. Mike Schulz, Senate President Pro Tem: firstname.lastname@example.org; (405) 521-5612
- Sen. Kim David, Senate Appropriations and Budget Chair: email@example.com (405) 521-5590
In addition to revenue options to balance this year’s budget, please also encourage legislators to support a pair of measures, SB 170 & SB 130, that would repeal or delay a further cut to the income tax that could take effect as early as 2019, well before our budget and economy has had time to recover. Click here to see our advocacy alert on SB 170 & SB 130. Both bills have passed the full Senate and now move over to the House of Representatives.
For all of our latest information on the state budget, see the budget and tax page on OK Policy’s website.
Partners and Campaigns
Oklahoma Education Association: Fight for Funding campaign