Statement: Lawmakers have not risen to the challenge of a historic budget shortfall

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to the state budget deal announced by lawmakers:

Lawmakers have not risen to the challenge of a historic budget shortfall. While this budget deal may prevent further cuts to common education and Soonercare, it slashes other vital services like higher education, the Health Department, Public Safety, environmental protection, Veterans Affairs, and the arts. The result is likely to be large tuition increases and fewer course offerings in higher education, shuttered county Health Departments and epidemic prevention efforts, dwindling emergency responders, and even larger gaps in mental health treatment for veterans.

The budget makes these dire cuts even though lawmakers have left hundreds of millions on the table by not stopping a reckless tax cut that was never supposed to happen in these conditions, using far less than the full available 3/8ths of the Rainy Day Fund, failing to increase the cigarette tax, and refusing available federal funds to save rural hospitals. The secretive process and last-minute unveiling of the budget has also already forced schools to lay off teachers and left vulnerable seniors and other Soonercare patients and providers facing months of extreme anxiety.

Lawmakers should show the courage to reject this budget deal and come back with a better plan to address this emergency, even if it requires going into special session.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

11 thoughts on “Statement: Lawmakers have not risen to the challenge of a historic budget shortfall

  1. David: You are correct in your analysis of the state budget crisis. While both sides of the aisle actually have their heads wrapped around the upcoming presidential election, they will choke public ed and other essential services just to blame the mess on the other side of the aisle. This year is the worst performance of both Dems and Repubs in the history of our great state! Where are the Statesmen/women who should rise to the fore, lay aside political correctness, and stand strong to push ahead knowing there may not be any legislators who are willing to risk a position of strength because they might lose votes. My vote will go only to the one(s) who is willing to take a position against all odds!

  2. Republican lawmakers rarely seem to show any courage to face the people they harm with their budget cuts, they would prefer to hide behind closed doors and hope no one checks their voting records.

  3. AND 175,000 Oklahoma neighbors, friends and family will remain uninsured for no reason other than we refuse to bring our federal taxes home to help them. Who should be held responsible for the needless suffering and DEATH of thousands of Oklahomans as a direct result?

  4. If everything going on politically in this state was presented as a work of fiction, most would say, “This is not remotely believable”. In fact it is appallingly true. This part of Oklahoma history should be remembered for a long time, so that does not happen again.

  5. We need to get our house (and our senate) in order. Every election counts. It does not matter if you are an R or a D. Oklahoma needs people who are willing to resist acting on their dogma and instead work with others of different beliefs to make sound financial decisions. Come on, guys and girls. Stop embarrassing us.

  6. Not rolling back the Republican tax cut is morally wrong, fiscally unsound, and contrary to common sense.The Republican leadership cares only about their base, s group that cares most about keeping their money.They care little about lifting up the average Oklahoman. This is just an opportunity to shrink State government.

  7. If I were a republican, I would have to hang my head in shame. There is absolutely no passage of Scripture that could justify this kind of oppression on the poor, let alone be a witness to the lost. Just knowing that people who publicly associate themselves as Christian have had a significant role in this debacle grieves my soul to no end. I apologize, Oklahoma, for the actions of those who claim they are my brothers and sisters in Christ.

  8. Mr. Perry, thank you for the update. I am disappointed this budget looks so grim with respect to education, health care and specifically, behavioral health care. Oklahoma has a behavioral health care crisis. Despite the fact that Oklahoma has some of the highest mental illness rates in the United States, our majority leadership does not appear interested in properly funding behavioral health care. For example, earlier this year, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse (ODMHSAS) proposed giant cuts to behavioral health in an attempt to reduce their operational costs for the remainder of the SFY 2016 budget. Currently, those cuts have been approved by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and are waiting on the governors approval. As Representative Inman recently stated while advocating for Oklahomans of low socioeconomic status, “These type of cuts impact people who do not have well heeled lobbyists in fancy suits standing outside the chamber doors.” If Fallin approves cuts to outpatient behavioral health, many master’s level, licensed mental health professionals in both private practice and agency settings will seek employment in other states, and in some cases, explore different professions all together, especially in the rural areas. Why? Because logistically, it will be virtually impossible to provide allowable in-home services post cuts to clients residing in remote areas. Too far to drive with too little reimbursement. The result will be, even more adults and children struggling with mental illness and substance abuse issues will go untreated. Keep in mind, ODMHSAS has yet to announce how the SFY 2017 budget will further impact behavioral health care in the Sooner State. Meanwhile, the behavioral health care crisis in Oklahoma continues !!

  9. Did they whittle down the increase for the Legislative Services Bureau from 205% to 184% overnight? Skulduggery.

  10. There are some statesmen and women in the OK legislature but they are outnumbered. Watch the video of Innan’s debate last week. Follow Emily Virgin and Jason Dunnington. I know there are others as well. It is an election year so do some research and get new people in who will work for the people of Oklahoma.

  11. Once again our leaders have blown a hole in the illusion they want us to believe in. They are exposing their lack of humanity to their fellow Oklahomans on multiple levels. They do not care that Oklahomans have some of the lowest wages in the country, as long as they don’t have to increase the minimum wage, it is okay for the taxpayers to pick up the tab to subsidize those wages with food stamps, housing subsidies, and utility vouchers, but let’s make sure they get less and less since they seem to be too lazy to work 4 or 5 jobs to earn more money. Once again we want to make sure Oklahomans cannot get higher educations, since we are not going to fund it for residents, we are going to drive up the cost and make sure no one can afford to go unless they incur a bunch of debt to do so, and that doesn’t even take into account the devastation to our primary education. There is no illusion left, the people that are selected to run for our state offices do not care about the people of Oklahoma as much as they care about the business interests who are winning the battle of tax cuts, even though they are cutting off their own noses to do it. Where will all the healthy, educated workers come from in the future, since they have all decided paying a little extra to fund those services for their underpaid workers isn’t something they are willing to do?

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