The Pryor Times

Opinion

March 12, 2014

Budget most important job

PRYOR, OK — Of all the responsibilities and duties required of the members of the Oklahoma Legislature, I believe the most important job we are entrusted with is our constitutional mandate to write and pass a balanced budget each session.

There are two reasons I feel the budget is our most important job. First of all, the decisions we make about the budget—how much state agencies are appropriated to provide the services our citizens depend on—ultimately affect every single person in our state, not just in that budget year, but for years to come.

The budget determines the quality of our schools, and the level of access our citizens and their children will have to higher education and CareerTech. It affects the access they will have to health and mental health care.  It affects the ability of law enforcement and corrections officers to protect law abiding citizens.  It’s about our infrastructure, including roads, bridges, access to clean water and even the upkeep and repair of state facilities.  It determines our quality of life and can enhance or undermine our efforts to create more and better jobs in Oklahoma.

The second reason is, we make all these decisions with your money—your tax dollars are what fund these core services of government. If we invest wisely, our state benefits now and in the future. If poor decisions are made, it is to the detriment of all of us. Because of all of these reasons, we have a moral obligation to be good stewards of the public’s money.

This session I introduced Senate Bill 1980, aimed at helping all citizens better understand how their tax dollars are being used. The measure would require the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) to include a “Taxpayer Receipt” function on its existing “Open Books” website. This would allow a taxpayer to enter their income and estimated sales taxes they paid and see how those dollars were allocated as mandated by state law.  The receipt would provide Oklahomans with a good estimate of how their tax dollars may be used.

I often tell people when I see a good idea presented on the floor I support it, regardless of the political party of the author. I feel very fortunate that when my bill came up for a vote this past week, that support was reciprocated. Senate bill 1980 was approved unanimously, and now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

It is my hope that my colleagues across the rotunda will join us in approving this legislation and help us shine even more light on the budget process, creating greater transparency and accountability.

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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