As predicted in this column last week, the alleged GOP budget was merely a smoke screen to try hide the Republicans’ complete capitulation to the state’s oil and gas industry. The governor and the Republican legislative failureship announced a bad plan that had no chance of passing. Then, when it failed, House Speaker Charles McCall-to-no-action blamed the Democrats. Actually, the vote was 54-44, with 18 of McCall’s own Republicans voting against it. Complaining only about the Democrats, McCall said, “This is Bull****.” No, Democratic Rep. Cory Williams corrected him, the BS was in the budget. Gov. Fallin had presented a better budget – with Democratic support – about a month ago. But, it contained a reasonable five percent gross production tax that McCall and Senate Speaker Pro Tem Mike Schulz just could not abide.
Way back then, Gov. Fallin said: “Like the public, I am disappointed by the lack of progress in accomplishing these goals almost two weeks after the start of the special session….The clock is ticking toward some very serious consequences for nearly one million Oklahomans who depend on services provided by the Department of Mental Health, the Oklahoma Health Commission and the Department of Human services.”
So, faced with the prospect of harming one-fourth of the state’s population, Republican legislative failureship gave itself an extended recess and then brought forth a plan that was dead on announcement – and then another that didn’t get out of committee.
I’ll give the governor points for prescience. Headlines in recent Oklahoman issues include: “State agency cuts funding for child abuse prevention” and “Cuts imperil mental health system.” The latter headline carried the subhead of “Cuts will drive up crime, officials say.” The predictions have become more dire in the wake of the fake budget vote.
Reporting for KWTV, Grant Hermes said departmental budget cuts include $215 million for health, human services and mental health; $2 million for the Department of Public Safety and $39 million for education. Those cuts and others would spread the budgetary pain throughout all state agencies – and increase the personal pain for thousands more Oklahomans. Regrettably, most of Greed’s Own Party’s “compassionate conservatives” would rather squeeze a nickel than help Oklahomans in need.
Still, one aspect of reduced government spending would undoubtedly gain favor from all who want responsible government. As reported by CNHI’s Janelle Stecklein in the Banner, “several members of the Board on Legislative Compensation, tasked with setting lawmakers’ compensation, said Oct. 13 that they’re considering a pay cut.” According to Stecklein, Board Chair Wesley Milbourn said, “We’re very frustrated. We don’t like to see Oklahomans losing jobs. This is a performance issue. And income and salary ought to be based upon performance.”
Some folks will try to lay the blame solely on those who supposedly lead the Republicans. But, if the back-benchers and rank-and-file legislators don’t have the courage to demand responsible action or to oust the incompetents, they are no better than the GOP failureship.
(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)