by Patrick B. McGuigan, editor
OKLAHOMA CITY – Democrats in Oklahoma wasted little time in decrying Republican policies after official word came of a significant “revenue failure” for state government last week.
Former state Rep. Joe Dorman, a Rush Springs Democrat who was the party standard-bearer in the 2014 election, slapped at his rival in that campaign, incumbent Republican Gov. Mary Fallin.
In comments sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations, Dorman said, “The news received regarding the massive budget shortfall was tragic. The governor and legislature have gone so crazy with tax giveaways that they are jeopardizing Oklahoma’s future just to cater to a few huge corporate special interest campaign supporters.
“The required cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year, along with the estimated $900.8 million fewer dollars the state will have to appropriate next year should be no surprise to anyone. This follows the $611 million reduction last year and the $188 million shortfall from the prior year.
This crisis ties in with the implemented tax cuts which reduced collections even further.
“We should not forget there is another income tax cut on the books which will set essential services back even more once signs of improvement are seen. Action needs to be taken this session to restore the fiscal responsibility we have not seen in recent years from our elected officials.
“Our state desperately needs new, strong, smart leadership and needs it soon. Oklahomans will have the chance to correct that course in 2016 and 2018.”
Preston Doerflinger, who runs the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) and serves as the governor’s finance director, told reporters in the state Capitol press room weakening general revenue fund (GRF) collections were due to sustained low oil prices, “off-the-top” numbers, large tax incentives and one-time expenditures. He told The City Sentinel that suggestions that the state’s fiscal problems are “because of income tax reductions” were wrong.
The state Board of Equalization, the body designated in the state Constitution to set revenue projections, planned to ratify the “revenue failure” designation on Monday (December 21), which will trigger across-the-board cuts for the remaining six months of the 2016 fiscal year.
State Democratic Party Chairman Mark Hammons, in a prepared statement, decried “an inability to project revenue and irresponsibility in assessing and allocating taxes. The result is basic state services, which were already cut to the bone, are going to be cut again this year. This next year, the ever-growing budget hole will mean even more drastic cuts to education, law enforcement, and roads and bridges.
“The Republicans have shown that they simply don’t have the willingness to engage in good government and their policies are based on rhetoric and not reality. Their financial programs are tilted in favor of large corporate and political donors while ignoring the needs of working Oklahomans.
He called for “the direction of government to dramatically change” in the 2016 legislative elections.
Along with House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, Hammons renewed calls for delays in the income tax cut scheduled for the coming year.
Hammons blasted public policies which he said mean that school children “are going to school and being taught by persons that don’t have the education necessary for the courses they are teaching. These are passionate people that want to do right by our children and their communities, but our refusal to pay a living wage and recruit quality teachers is a disservice to the next generation.”