The Save Our State Coalition, including Oklahoma Policy Institute, released the following statement in response to the budget plan unveiled by House and Senate leaders late last night:
The legislative session began with promises to fix Oklahoma’s structural deficit, fund a teacher pay raise, and stop the reckless use of one-time funds that make our budget problems worse in future years. The conclusion of the legislative session can only be seen as a failure to meet those promises.
The source of that failure is a decision to cater to a few powerful interests instead of investing in an economy that works for all. Lawmakers had sensible, broadly popular options to protect our communities, like restoring a moderate gross production tax and rolling back wasteful income tax cuts for the very wealthy. Instead of taking these options, they cobbled together a budget using legally questionable gimmicks and even more cuts that will be passed down to regular Oklahomans.
The results of this budget will be a continuing exodus of teachers from Oklahoma schools, larger class sizes and fewer educational opportunities, failing protections for public health and safety, and collapsing support for children, seniors, and Oklahomans with disabilities — in other words, more of the same, but worse.
Oklahomans want and deserve better. The bright spot coming out of this legislative session is that a record number of lawmakers and regular Oklahomans have grown aware of our state’s revenue problems and the decisions that are perpetuating them. Despite the attempt to rush through a budget with late-night, last-minute votes, more Oklahomans than ever are watching and getting involved.
Oklahomans deserve better, even at the cost of coming back into special session to do this right. Lawmakers should vote down this budget and come up with a responsible plan. If this budget does make it through the Legislature, Governor Fallin should uphold her promise to veto a budget that does not fund core services. Oklahomans are calling on lawmakers to come back with a plan that puts regular people over special interests.