As the seventh week of the 2017 Special Session begins, a sustainable solution to Oklahoma’s budget shortfall seems unlikely. With this, the frustration of constituents has reached a point unseen in recent memory. As the search for a solution continues, the Edmond Democratic Women (EDW) would like to address the Governor and our elected Representatives and Senators.
EDW is well aware of the efforts made by the House Democratic Caucus to work alongside the Republican Caucus to draft a budget that will pull our great state out of its current financial challenge, during the regular session and now in the Special Session. In early October former Minority Leader Scott Inman announced a budget proposal that he believed had bipartisan support. It included 5% GPT on new wells, an increase in taxes on cigarettes and pump fuel, the elimination of wind sales tax exemptions, and an income tax increase for high income earners, allowing for a teacher’s pay raise and prevention of budget cuts. Shortly after this, Governor Fallin and House Speaker McCall blatantly disregarded that proposal by introducing their own that did not include the 5% GPT, but did include the restoration of the Earned Income Tax Credit, allowing for a teacher and state employee pay raise and partial filling of the budget hole.
Without a funding solution on the horizon, Governor Fallin set the timetable for disastrous cuts to Oklahoma’s health agencies, namely the Department of Human Services, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse.
And gridlock continued.
While multiple attempts have been made to find a bipartisan solution, there has been no success. House Speaker Charles McCall’s most recent option to reach the floor of the House was to use the Rainy Day and Reserve Funds to narrow the state’s growing budget shortfall. This was passed by the House as a last resort.
To this extent, the Edmond Democratic Women believe that:
- The Democratic House Caucus has worked diligently throughout the 2017 Special Session to represent the needs of its constituents and we commend them and support them on their efforts;
- Governor Fallin and House Speaker Charles McCall have led Oklahoma to the current atmosphere of uncertainty and economic risk;
- Oklahomans cannot tolerate leadership carried out by threats and intimidation;
- A raise in GPT is critical in producing the recurring revenue needed to fund the state’s health agencies, fulfill long standing promises to teachers for a pay raise and improve its economy in the long term;
- The use of emergency reserves will not resolve the state’s recurring budget crisis in the long term and actually makes the situation worse;
- Funding must be immediately reinstated to the Department of Human Services, Oklahoma Health Care Authority, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse;
- Teachers must be paid their worth through significant pay increases and support in critical resources, such as the hiring of additional teachers, implementing smaller classrooms, and providing teachers with the classroom supplies to effectively prepare our children for their future.
The people of Oklahoma are relying on the Senate and House working together to find a positive resolution before hundreds of your fellow citizens find themselves experiencing economic hardships that are no fault of their own. The Edmond Democratic Women call on you to continue working toward a funding plan to replace the $215 million shortfall with recurring revenues and to develop long-term solutions which will make state government more efficient.
The Edmond Democratic Women