A gutted budget, lofty platitudes and good stuff, too!

A gutted budget, lofty platitudes and good stuff, too!

Will Rogers once waxed philosophical on the subject of the Congressional budget:  “The budget is like a mythical bean bag.  Congress votes mythical beans into it, then reaches in and tries to pull real ones out.”  Oh Will, you have no idea how creative the legislature of your beloved home state has become in paying its bills.  Earlier this month Governor Mary Fallin signed off on the FY 2016 Oklahoma State Budget and commented on some of the highlights of the 2015 legislative session.  Governor Fallin seemed proud of the fact that the $611 million budget shortfall was closed without cutting K-12 education even though higher education took a $24 million reduction.  It seems the tax cuts the governor pushed for a got two years ago have not made it easy on the fiscal conservatives trying to run the state’s finances using Will’s aforementioned mythical beans.  Higher education was not the only state funded program cut.  The Department of Transportation will have a funding cut of some $12 million.  Most of the rest of state government was either not cut or received minimal increases in the operating budget.  All in all, the FY 2016 budget will amount to just over $7.1 billion:  a $74.3 million or 1.03% decrease from the FY 2015 appropriated budget.  At a time when things are not getting cheaper, I do hope those who got their taxes cut in 2013 enjoyed their party!

Reps Jeannie McDaniel D-HD 78 and Eric Proctor D-HD 77

Representatives Jeannie McDaniel D-HD 78 and Eric Proctor D-HD 77.

This past Friday, June 12th the Tulsa County Democratic Party had its monthly luncheon club at Baxter’s Interurban in downtown Tulsa.  On hand were two Tulsa area Democratic state legislators, Jeannie McDaniel and Eric Proctor.  They each offered valuable insight on how the FY 2016 state budget came to be.  Each one indicated that when the final text of this year’s budget was published, it was several hundred pages long and there was only a 24 hour window to review it before the vote was held.  Some items were questionable enough for a few of the GOP leadership to oppose it.  According to Rep. Proctor, some 20% of the GOP membership sided with the Democrats in opposition.  I am sure we will see how well the results of the budget cuts improve the standing of our state in a couple years time.  Not all the news from the State Capitol was gloom and doom.  HB 1965 which bans texting while driving was a bill co-authored by Rep. McDaniel and was signed into law in early May.  There were several bills passed this session impacting criminal justice with regard to sentencing guidelines for non-violent offenders.  Chief among these was HB 1518 creating the Justice Safety Valve Act.  This was another which was co-authored by Rep. McDaniel.  HB 1685 creating the Tobacco-Free Schools Act was another one passed early last month.  HB 2154 authorizing the medically supervised use of a low THC non-intoxicating derivative of marijuana was passed at the end of April.  Somewhere in all that pulling out of mythological beans there emerged two community enhancement projects.  HB 2237 which provides funding for the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in OKC and SB 839 which creates the Oklahoma Museum of Popular Culture in Tulsa.  The later is a project under the auspices of the Oklahoma Historical Society, an organization of which yours truly is a member.  The forthcoming Pop Culture Museum is slated to be constructed in the Brady Arts District.  There was even a measure passed to promote voting by allowing those eligible to register online, that being SB 313 which was signed by the Governor in April.  There were many more bill passed this session and can all be reviewed here.

It is often noted that 90% of good governance is stopping things.  Indeed, HB 1371, the Oklahoma version of the Religious Freedom Act, went back to committee and hopefully died there.  Kudos to Rep. Emily Virgin (D, HD 44) for her amendment mandating putting bigotry on display.

Yes, the Governor is pleased that the newly passed state budget meets her criteria for successful governance going forward.  The proof will be in how Oklahoma stacks up with other states in the region.  I am sure her popularity would improve markedly if something could be done at the executive level about all the earthquakes that are doing some very real damage to property, but one management crisis at a time seems her limit.  Even though I volunteered for Governor Fallin’s opponent in both her gubernatorial runs, I do hope she does not force the cold hard lesson on her constituents that unless you possess the wherewithal, any concept of freedom is purely academic.  Success after all will be evident as will failure.  Results after all do matter just as elections do have consequences.  The perplexing question that remains is will the results produced by this Legislature this session have any real influence on future Oklahoma elections?  It would behoove all voters to remember that they only deserve as much abuse in terms of bad governance as they will tolerate.