In spite of protests by more than 100 Oklahoma educators, the Oklahoma legislature passed a budget that includes a significant reduction in higher education funding. On top of that, the budget deal included removal of a tax credit for the working poor.
As they sliced and diced state programs this month to close a budget deficit, Republicans controlling the Oklahoma Legislature cruelly targeted some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens — the working poor — by cutting an average $147 a year from the income of 200,000 households.
Oklahoma’s legislative session results are ‘disappointing’
Most Oklahoma lawmakers finished the 2016 legislative session Friday with muted celebration, believing the budget that was approved in the final hours had averted the level of cuts many feared.
But even backers of the budget deal understood the public’s frustration that seemed to be a constant theme during the four-month session.
“The thing that is disappointing to me the most this session is Oklahomans were paying attention to the priorities of this legislature more than in the six years I have been here,” Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, said. “But as that attention increased our focus on the budget seemed to actually get worse. We didn’t respond to that attention in the way that I think we should have.”
Tulsa World editorial: An inadequate budget has state continuing to sink to the bottom
The plan includes some good but difficult choices, such as ending the double deduction on state income taxes. It has some plain bad choices, such as ending the refundable nature of the earned income tax credit. It has at least one choice — a transportation bond issue that spreads costs over a long period of time, but doesn’t consult the people before going into debt — that is both good and bad. But the biggest problem is the whole deal just doesn’t go far enough.
The three most significant missing pieces from the plan are the failure to roll back ill-considered income tax rate cuts, the failure to pass a cigarette tax increase, and the refusal to claim federal funding to bring health-care coverage to 175,000 uninsured Oklahomans and set state health care on a sustainable financial path.
Oklahoma House passes $6.78 billion budget; Legislature adjourns
The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Friday passed and sent to the governor a $6.78 billion budget that will cut overall state spending by 5 percent in the fiscal year starting July 1.
The House later joined the Senate in adjourning for the year. The next legislative session begins in February.
Oklahoma budget cuts more than expected for higher education
Shrinking state support for higher education is harming Oklahoma’s future, college officials warn.
“States that prosper are states that invest in education,” University of Central Oklahoma President Don Betz said. “The quality of life, the quality of economic development and the quality of education all go together.”
Winners and Losers in the Oklahoma Legislative Session
Few true winners emerged from a contentious legislative session that saw lawmakers slashing spending, cutting tax credits and struggling to find new revenue amid a record $1.3 billion budget shortfall.
But in the end, after the Legislature approved a $6.8 billion budget Friday, it was clear that some groups came out ahead more than others.
Oklahoma funding cut passed on to colleges
Each of Oklahoma’s 25 public colleges and universities must develop a fiscal year 2017 operating budget and tuition plan with nearly 16 percent less in state funding than one year ago.
5 Takeaways From Oklahoma’s 2016 Legislative Session
It was one of the more contentious legislative sessions in recent memory, with passionate debates in the final days as lawmakers accused each other of losing focus whenever anything other than the state budget situation was discussed. But for better or for worse, lawmakers accomplished quite a bit over the past four months.
The budget contains targeted reductions rather than an across-the-board cut for all agencies, and most state agencies saw their budgets slashed by an average of about 5 percent. That’s compared to the mid-year adjustment after two revenue failures that triggered automatic cuts.
Capitol protesters: Scrap budget deal, fund public schools
More than 100 protesters at the Oklahoma state Capitol have called for the Legislature to scrap a proposed budget deal and designate more state money for public education.
House Rep. Mike Shelton, a Democrat, says lawmakers for years have not properly funded public education.
Oklahoma doesn’t ‘do all this craziness by accident’
The pattern is a familiar one: voters in red states put conservative Republicans in complete control of state government; GOP lawmakers implement their agenda; and the results are discouraging for everyone. We saw it in Louisiana, where former Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) failed, and we’re seeing in Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback’s (R) radical experiment is a fiasco.