Capital City lawmen need to be on high alert. Oklahoma legislators have returned to the Capitol. Their personal conduct this year has been less than stellar. Of course, their professional conduct has been nothing to brag about either. After frittering away the regular session, our GOP-dominated Legislature thought it found a way to fund state operations by trying to disguise a $1.50 per pack cigarette tax as a “fee.” This bit of legerdemain fooled no one, least of all the Supreme Court, which ruled it unconstitutional, precipitating a budget crisis that resulted in a not-so-special session.
After two months of indolence, Republican failureship cobbled together a budget that offered only temporary relief to state budget troubles. And, to her credit, Gov. Mary Fallin awoke from her six-and-a-half year slumber and vetoed most of this non-effort. At that time, she announced, “House Bill 1019X does not provide a long-term solution to the re-occurring budget deficits, and within three months we will come back facing an estimated $600 million shortfall.”
Monday’s special session opened with one item on its agenda – establishing a sustainable budget for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority though the governor can add other issues if she chooses. House Speaker Charles McCall, whose Republican colleagues have proven the most obstinate against taking proper action, criticized the new session as the result of the governor breaking her promise to sign the November bill.
Lot of blaming going around. Lot of blame to go around.
Leave it to District 43 Senator Paul Scott to find a way to shift the blame from the Republicans whose mismanagement of state government has created this parlous situation to you and me – and possibly even higher authorities. Last week, he announced that his plan for fixing the financial fiasco consisted in asking his constituents for “prayers for the legislature, agency directors and state officials as we come together again to find the best solution to get Oklahoma on the right path.”
Yep, instead of formulating a funding solution himself and then preparing to pound on the door of the secret budget meetings and demanding admission “in the name of the great God Jehovah and the people of the 43rd District,” Sen. Scott is passing the buck over to us.
Doncha see: if these GOP bumblers fail again, it will be our fault for not enough of us praying or not praying properly. He even provided an exemplary prayer for us – as if Jesus instructing his disciples. The corollary to passing the blame onto us poor prayers is to pass the buck on up to God, who would then fail to answer our prayers as punishment for our myriad shortcomings. Personal failings aside, our most glaring shortcoming is in who we have chosen to represent us.
Most state Republicans have failed their oaths of office to uphold and defend the state and national constitutions. The latter calls for the promotion of “the general Welfare,” while the state preamble specifies its mission “to promote our mutual welfare and happiness.” Neither calls for preferential treatment of fat-cat donors and corporate exploiters at the expense of the rest of us. And, if you need a reminder, The Oklahoma Journal reports that business and industry leaders met with the governor and legislators Friday to give their lackeys their working orders for the new session.
A proper gross production tax and miniscule increases for high-income taxpayers would alleviate most of our financial troubles – without burdening a small portion of our mainly poorer neighbors with a “sin tax” to fund state government without an equitable exaction on their self-righteous neighbors.
Yeah, they’re back in action – or, their inaction is back.
(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)