PRYOR, OK —
The 2014 legislative session is now underway at the State Capitol, and as you probably are aware, this will be my last. But in my remaining months in office, I will continue to be a strong voice for the people of this district, speaking in support of proposals that will benefit our citizens and being equally vocal when it’s important to debate against ideas that are bad public policy.
After listening to the State of the State address this week and looking at the governor’s budget and I felt compelled to speak out. Cutting taxes when revenues are already projected to be lower than they were just one year ago is irresponsible. It’s the wrong thing to do for the people of this district and for the state as a whole. Simply put, it’s irresponsible.
Our public schools are still struggling with funding issues. They currently are appropriated at a level that’s about $200 million less than they were before the national recession. Yet the governor has only called for an additional $50 million for our public schools. The increased cost in flexible benefits alone this next budget year will require an additional $59 million. It doesn’t even come close to providing our schools with the funds they need for the many reforms they’ve been required to make.
Furthermore, if you dig into the governor’s proposed budget, she’s calling for taking $43 million of that $50 million for public schools from the state’s 1017 fund—money that is supposed to pay for the reforms approved in 1990 with House Bill 1017, including hiring additional teachers and decreasing class sizes. No matter how you cook the books, there is no new money going to education that will hire one new teacher, purchase one book, give one teacher a raise – those dollars will never see a classroom, never lower a class size, never help a teacher make one child smarter or more prepared for college or the workforce.
We know we need more Oklahomans with college and CareerTech degrees and certifications, but higher education would be cut five percent under the executive budget, while CareerTech would receive no additional funding at all.
The last across-the-board raise for state workers took effect back in 2006. Since then, the cost of just about everything has continued to rise, meaning their buying power has continued to shrink—that hurts Oklahoma families, and it hurts Oklahoma businesses as well. But those dedicated workers are being told to forget about a raise this year.
We don’t have enough troopers on the road, and our prisons are dangerously overcrowded and understaffed. Many rural hospitals are facing closure as it is, but a planned reduction in health care appropriations could leave many communities without an ER or the medical professionals they disparately need.
With all these critical needs and the knowledge that revenues are down, does it makes sense to further reduce our limited resources by approving another tax cut? This isn’t good public policy. This is politics, pure and simple.
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.