The Pryor Times

Opinion

March 6, 2014

Tax cut not for education, it’s for election year

PRYOR, OK — This time last year, the Legislature had been told that, thanks to modest growth, there would be an increase of $212 million to appropriate to our schools, public safety, health and mental health, and many other areas of service vital to thousands of our citizens right here in Rogers and Mayes Counties.

Even though none of those areas of government had been made whole after years of budget cuts as a result of the national recession, the powers that be in this building decided this would be the perfect time for a tax cut. Mind you most Oklahomans would only see literally pennies a day, if that—but they wanted to be able to say they were making sure Oklahomans were keeping more of their hard-earned money.

I guess technically they were right—even though it meant giving them less of the services that impact every community of our state. Less money for our classrooms.  Less money for our colleges and universities. Less money for CareerTech. Less money for public safety. Less money for our county health departments. The list goes on and on.

Many of us felt it was a blessing when the State Supreme Court tossed the tax cut law out because it violated the single subject rule—which many of us argued would happen when the bill was presented on the floor.

Flash-forward to this year. Instead of an increase in $212 million to appropriate, we are actually dealing with a decrease in revenue of $188 million. Even less to appropriate, while gaps in funding for all of those services I talked about have yet to be truly addressed.

As the bill was presented on the floor this week, I asked one of the authors repeatedly—do you think we adequately fund education in Oklahoma? I was told what the appropriation level was last year. I was told what percentage of the budget last year went to education, and specifically to public schools. But despite asking the question more than once, I never got a straight answer as to whether the author believed we were funding public schools adequately.

We know we aren’t. And you can say that about every state service, and that is a big reason we continue to rank close to the bottom of the barrel when it comes to national reports on any number of issues.

So why the determination to get another tax cut in place? Two words; election year.

I believe as legislators representing all the citizens of this state, those citizens should be our number one priority—but once again it seems Oklahoma will be held back by those who pursue politics over good public policy.

Thanks again for reading my “Senate Review.” If you have any questions on a legislative matter, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing me with your concerns at: Senator Sean Burrage, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 537, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.  I always enjoy hearing from my constituents and consider it an honor to be your voice in the Oklahoma State Senate. May God bless each of you.

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