Blog

14 Apr
0

Governor Sheds Crocodile Tears Over State Budget

With just six weeks left in the 2015 legislative session, Governor Mary Fallin introduced her “Executive Budget 2.0” this week to the House and Senate. The legislature has failed to discuss any proposals or options as of yet to address the $1.3 billion budget hole which Governor Fallin, Speaker Hickman, and Secretary Doerflinger have created through inaction and a palpable desire to appease their friends and campaign contributors.

Not only has the Governor proposed a second set of budget “options” to the legislature after her first set of suggestions were rejected and ignored by legislators in her own party as unsustainable or outlandish, but she waited to hold a press conference at the same time as more than 30 educators were joining together at the Capitol to file for office and talk about Republicans’ disastrous public education policy.

“It was rather opportunistic for the Governor to hold a press conference, drawing media away from these candidates and their message, while she and her Republican leadership continues to get raked over the coals for the very issues that brought these teachers to file for legislative office in the first place. Her talk about supporting public education, teacher pay raises, and even the woes of shrinking access to rural healthcare, is a mockery of what is really going on within the Executive and Legislative branches of our state government,” said Sarah Baker, Communications Director for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

“Nothing good has come from her leadership or that of the Republican legislature. It is troublesome to watch her stand in front of a room full of people and talk about “tough decisions” and “tightening our belts.” If we tighten the belt anymore, we’re going to lose our bottom half. Oklahoma Republicans, especially the Governor, continues to blame everyone else for what’s happening as they sit idly by, reciting tired talking points and failed rhetoric. There is nothing of substance coming from the Governor and the legislature knows this – even members of her own party.

“The Governor suddenly seems concerned with the crisis of public education and rural healthcare. Where was this outrage when more than 20,000 parents and educators showed up on the Capitol steps two years ago? Where was this outrage when leaders in her party chose to cut funding to education when oil was going for more than $100 a barrel? This fake outrage from Mary Fallin is timed perfectly to coincide with the fact that Democrats and educators are flocking to the Capitol to put their name on a ballot in hopes of shutting down the circus which has become our state government. The Governor’s crocodile tears over four-day school weeks and closing nursing homes are nothing more than a political ploy in an attempt to fool voters into thinking that Republicans, in an election year, care about the rest of us.

“Fallin isn’t worried about giving teacher pay raises or properly funding education. We know this because she, along with her entire party, continue to tell Oklahomans that educators are “whiney” and just keep asking for more. They give themselves a big pat on the back for flat funding proposals despite growing populations, then suggest that communities, and now even the state, borrow their way out of financial ruin – a plan which we can all agree is a horrible idea. And we hate to break it to the Governor, but it’s time she stop comparing managing a state with more than 3.8 million people to that of managing a household budget – this isn’t like giving up cable television and it’s time Republicans stop making that comparison. Instead, the Republicans insistence on extending corporate tax breaks and pushing through tax cuts in a budget shortfall is akin to quitting your job and blaming everyone else for not being able to pay your mortgage. This is about people’s lives and the future of Oklahoma and Governor Fallin has squandered it all away.

“We have news for Governor Fallin, Speaker Hickman, and the rest of the Republican ‘leadership’: Oklahomans are tired of your lunacy and Democrats are running for office to make necessary changes and put Oklahoma back on track.”

###

24 Mar
0

GOP Legislature’s Maladroit Management of State Budget Continues to Punish Public Education

[Oklahoma City, OK, March 24, 2016] House and Senate Democrats recently won a key victory for students by pressuring Governor Fallin to allocate state funds to alleviate Oklahoma’s school budget crisis. Governor Fallin initially opposed the measure but, following the leadership of House Democratic Leader Scott Inman, agreed to release $51 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to fund public education. While a welcome move, the amount released is less than the amount requested by the Oklahoma State Superintendent [1] and is a mere one-third of the revenue that will be lost annually from January’s cut to Oklahoma’s top rate of individual income tax. [2]

Given the funding crisis, the disastrous budgetary effects of GOP education proposals are more important than ever.

Oklahoma GOP leaders recently delayed bills relating to Education Savings Accounts, which would create a voucher system diverting state funds to private schools. Oklahoma’s teachers and students argue that there would be no accountability for any inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars, and that funds would be better utilized in the under-funded public schools attended by ninety percent of Oklahoma’s students. The State Education Department estimates that Education Saving Accounts would cost the department $1.5 million and, if three percent of eligible students participate, would cost local districts $68.9 million [3], an astonishing sum for a program benefiting so few students. Rather than delay these wasteful proposals, Republicans should listen to Oklahoma’s teachers and students and abandon them entirely.

Following the delay of Education Savings Accounts, Republicans are now focused on their “Humanity of the Unborn Child Act,” HB2797, which would force Oklahoma’s public high schools to teach that “abortion kills a living human being and is against public policy”. As Oklahoma does not currently require any sex education in its schools, this extremist “humanity of the unborn” syllabus could be the only sex education that some Oklahoma students receive, and would waste teaching hours at a time when the possibility of a four-day school week has not been averted. Thankfully, the bill has been postponed after a fiscal impact statement prepared by Oklahoma’s Department of Education estimated that the policy would cost approximately $5 million. [4] The bill’s GOP senate sponsor claims that the bill can be amended to eliminate any fiscal impact, though this will obviously be impossible unless the bill is abandoned entirely.

GOP support for this new educational mandate is at odds with their recent efforts to deregulate schools with SB1187, the “School District Empowerment Act,” which would remove public schools’ obligations to have certified teachers and pay teachers the state minimum salary, while also relaxing background check requirements. The bill, which has already passed the Senate, helps Republicans avoid funding Oklahoma schools by allowing children to be taught by an untrained, uncertified or grossly underpaid teacher, placing the future of Oklahoma’s already-suffering students in further jeopardy.

As ever, Republicans face a choice between helping Oklahoma’s children, or appeasing their donors and extremist base. Ahead of the November elections, Oklahoma’s parents should watch carefully which side their GOP representatives choose.

###

Citations:
Hofmeister asks Fallin for $56 million in supplemental funding. NewsOK.com, 4 Mar. 2016. http://newsok.com/article/5482874
Panel agress to delay income tax cut despite objections by state leaders. News Channel 4, 23 Feb. 2016. http://kfor.com/2016/02/23/panel-agrees-to-delay-income-tax-cut-despite-objections-by-state-leaders/
Oklahoma lawmakers abandon school voucher plan. NewsOK.com, 10 Mar. 2016. http://newsok.com/article/5484142
Costs may scuttle Oklahoma anti-abortion curriculum bill. CNSNews.com, 19 Mar. 2016. http://cnsnews.com/news/article/costs-may-scuttle-oklahoma-anti-abortion-curriculum-bill

03 Mar
2

The Bloodletting of Oklahoma’s Education and Health Agencies

[Oklahoma City, OK, March 3, 2016] Republicans’ reckless tax cuts continue to bleed Oklahoma’s public education, healthcare, and public safety agencies dry with today’s announcement of an additional four percent across-the-board cut to agencies. Public education will receive the largest additional cut of $62.4 million, bringing the total since the start of the year to $109.2 million. With growing classroom sizes, abysmal teacher pay, and the elimination of programs and school days, how much more can Oklahoma’s teachers and students endure before Oklahoma says enough?

Instead of battling these real issues, Republican leaders, including Mary Fallin and Todd Lamb, are pushing to take even more money from public education through vouchers for private schools in urban areas while parents are still on the hook for a hefty portion of tuition and fees at those institutions that would have no public accountability.

Additionally, with the Republican-controlled legislature planning to kick over 110,000 Oklahomans off of SoonerCare, including 77,000 women, the additional cut to the Health Care Authority will result in many rural Oklahomans being cut off from reasonably-accessible health care services in their communities. Numerous rural hospitals have already cut services or shuttered their doors as a result of previous cuts and Governor Fallin’s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion, but that only seems to be the start.

The Oklahoma GOP continues to starve our state of vital core services through their mindless and irresponsible actions. The incompetence shown by Fallin, Lamb, and the rest of the Republican “leadership” is already costing this state new business and revenue and could now cost people their lives. Barely three months into the new year, and just one month into the legislative session, Oklahoma is well on track to end up in an even worse financial crisis than neighboring Kansas.

Oklahoma’s future is sinking and all Governor Fallin and legislative Republicans care to do is rearrange the deck chairs. It is far past time to halt additional tax cuts, cease discussion of elimination of tax breaks which directly benefit the middle-class as opposed to corporations, expand Medicaid, and get down to finding real solutions to these very real problems.

###

Photo copyright www.huffingtonpost.com

02 Mar
0

Republicans Take State Budget Woes Out On Middle-Class Oklahomans

[Oklahoma City, OK, March 2, 2016] Oklahoma’s dire budget situation is not news to anyone in Oklahoma; however, the discussion of how to address it grows more concerning each day as hard-working, middle class Oklahomans are targeted again and again while the ultra-wealthy and large corporations continue to get a free pass. After over two hours of floor debate this morning, all 30 House Democrats voted against House Bill 2665 by Representative Doug Cox (R-Grove) which would cut over 110,000 people from SoonerCare, including 77,000 women.

Cox, Doug“The Oklahoma GOP’s war on women is blatantly obvious after the Republican-controlled legislature’s multiple attempts to restrict access to healthcare over the past six years but even this is a low blow. The GOP’s position that women should be the ‘caretakers’ of the family, setting aside career aspirations to care for children, makes this move one of the most despicable yet, no matter how much the author says he ‘is not happy about the proposal,'” said Sarah Baker, Communications Director for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

“The Republicans continue to deny Oklahoma a revenue stream which could not only prevent this proposal from being an option, but allow us to direct funds to other areas of the budget that are starving.” Baker said. “It’s time for Governor Fallin and the rest of the Republican ‘leadership’ to suck it up and accept Medicaid expansion.

“When you have women leaving their jobs because the cost of childcare is too high for even middle-class Oklahomans and then turn around and deny them access to healthcare, we have a serious morality issue. The Oklahoma Republican Party is systematically stripping away every bit of opportunity for not just women and children in Oklahoma to succeed in our state, but the entire middle class.

“When the middle class is provided with the opportunity to succeed, our economy will succeed. While we agree that more must be done to fix our state’s budgetary issues, we shouldn’t do it on the back of those that are struggling the most, including our low-income parents and schoolchildren. With all of the cuts to education, healthcare, and public safety, it’s abundantly clear that Republicans don’t care about the future of Oklahoma.”

###

02 Mar
0

ODP Statement on Last Night’s Democratic Primary

[Oklahoma City, OK, March 2, 2016] Yesterday, voters in Oklahoma’s Democratic Presidential Primary went to the polls and favored Senator Bernie Sanders over Secretary Hillary Clinton by a vote of 52-percent to 42-percent respectively; the remaining five Democratic candidates, including Martin O’Malley, received six percent of votes cast collectively. Based on unofficial results, Sanders will tentatively gain 21 delegates while Clinton receives 17. The four Oklahoma superdelegates are not included in those numbers. This was the first time that voters registered as Independent were allowed to vote in the Democratic primary.

“We wish to congratulate Senator Sanders on his hard fought victory in the Oklahoma Primary. The Sanders team made a tremendous effort here and the results of last nights election clearly show that. We want to thank both Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton for their visits to our great state and on running campaigns based on the issues facing Oklahomans of all backgrounds and not on the fear-mongering, name-calling, and hateful rhetoric that’s been put forth by the Republican candidates,” said Mark Hammons, Oklahoma Democratic Party Chairman.

“We are proud of the work done by both candidates to help energize our base and reignite passion within our party. We look forward to joining Democrats from around the country this July in Philadelphia to select our nominee to be the next President of the United States and we want to thank the many supporters and volunteers across the state who put in so much effort for this election,” said Hammons.

###

Translate »