Puppet campaign urges Oklahomans to “get off our butts,” do something about budget shortfall (KFOR)

By Lacey Lett

OKLAHOMA CITY – A group of Oklahomans are taking an unusual approach to voicing concern over the state’s $1.3 billion shortfall.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute, a non-partisan independent policy think-tank, started the ‘Do Something’ campaign to encourage Oklahoma residents to educate themselves about what the budget deficit means and how to help make a change.

“We’ve got to get off our butts and fix this great, great, great state,” a video featuring puppets talking about the budget deficit illustrates.

After state agencies had their budgets slashed, the Oklahoma Policy Institute realized they had to do something about it.

“I like to think of it as laughter through the tears. It’s painful to think about cuts to nursing homes and cuts to our schools. Our teachers leaving the state, because we can’t pay them enough. It’s painful, and sometimes that pain makes it hard to take action,” said Kara Joy McKee, outreach and advocacy specialist for the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

The group said it has come up with many ways our legislators could solve the budget emergency.

“We sit around, and we look at the data. We geek out on all of the numbers and all of the ways that things can work,” McKee said.

The group thinks we could get out of this budget deficit if we:

  1. Roll Back Tax Cuts: Stop an income tax cut that is reckless in the midst of massive budget shortfalls and restore the top income tax rate on very high incomes.
  2. End Costly Tax Breaks and Loopholes: End the ‘double deduction,’ which has no rational purpose and only benefits high earners who itemize deductions and curb costly tax breaks for the energy industry.
  3. Selective Tax Increases: A $1.50 cigarette tax increase can help prevent the looming crisis in our health care system. A 5¢ fuel tax increase triggered only during times of low gas prices can ease the boom and bust cycle of state funding.

“Our legislators have the opportunity to choose from so many options, and they have so much they can do to fill the budget shortfall right now,” McKee said.

The group wants the public to reach out to our state’s leaders.

“I think it’s important for the public to know that all legislators are a part of the process,” McKee said.

It doesn’t take much to get the attention of our state’s leaders – all you have to do is reach out.

“You’d be surprised at how few people it takes to reach out to a representative and for them to listen to a particular issue,” said House of Representatives Jason Dunnington.


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