Oklahoma Democratic Party statement on budget failure

Chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party Mark Hammons released a statement regarding Oklahoma's budget shortfall. AP photo.

[Oklahoma City, OK, December 17, 2015] On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) released information that the gross revenue fund receipts will result in a $900.8 million revenue failure next year. This comes just two weeks before a massive tax break goes into effect, a tax break that the majority of Oklahomans agree is unnecessary and uncalled for at a time when we face year after year of budget deficits compounded by the fact that the Republican legislature refuses to address the statewide revenue loss. Today, Mark Hammons, Chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party released the following statement following this news:


"The budget failure we are seeing - and have seen over the past two years - has two parts: 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.


"It's time for the direction of government to dramatically change and that will require a leadership change from top to bottom, starting with legislative elections in 2016. It is now clearer than ever that Democrats represent the voice of reasonable and responsible government choice. Democrats fought until the bitter end to stop the tax breaks from going into effect during a budget crisis, but the Republicans refused to face reality and accept that it was not a responsible move until we have addressed our revenue failures.


"An example of the lack of priorities is that the Governor has turned down our tax dollars by denying health care to thousands of Oklahomans and putting rural hospitals at risk. Expanding healthcare would have generated over half of a billion dollars in revenue, created more than 13,000 new jobs, and would have helped our rural hospitals to continue the services necessary to provide timely healthcare for persons in rural Oklahoma. Without our rural hospitals, there's no real opportunity for true industrial growth. Her policies, and those of the Republican legislature, have directly harmed rural Oklahoma by taking away funds and jobs that are necessary for the growth of our rural communities.


"When the Republicans cut money from the county roads and bridges fund, it was a cut into the area of infrastructure that needs the greatest amount of work. In areas where bridges are out, it may take excessive time to travel which leads to a reduction in potential industry in areas that which desperately need job growth.


"Yet another example of the problem we're facing is that we now have more than 900 emergency teaching certificates issued in Oklahoma. Our 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. Our children's K-12 education affects their ability to get a good college education and go into the workforce prepared to face what life may throw at them. We are losing the ability for our children to get a quality education in our school system because we won't fund the necessary areas to recruit teachers that are properly trained and certified.


"We need to have a meaningful budget that addresses the reality of our situation instead of continuing the pattern of corporate welfare benefiting a small group as opposed to the people of Oklahoma.  This is not something any of us should expect out of this Governor and her Republican legislature - if it hasn't happened yet, there's no reason to think it's going to happen in 2016."


The Gayly - 12/17/2015 @ 11:44 a.m. CST