Oklahoma's deficit: One billion three hundred million

Oklahoma's budget shortfall now amounts to $1.3 billion. (File photo)

By State Rep. James Lockhart

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Every day at the state Capitol during the start of the legislative session I am reminded of "show and tell" from back when I was in grade school.

Our state is 1 billion, 300 million dollars in the hole, and to sum it up, the Republican leadership refuses to take any real action. Schools are cutting programs, hospitals and nursing homes are wondering how they will survive a 25% cut for the services they provide, our roads and bridges are crumbling and many people in rural parts of the state can hardly get to work without tearing up their vehicles.

For about the last six weeks the biggest piece of legislation we have passed would kick 111,000 Oklahoma citizens off Medicaid; most of those affected would be kids and single moms. We have had a few bills about abortion, one about feral hogs, a proposal to restore the Ten Commandments monument at the state Capitol, and an "open carry" gun bill tied to the Second Amendment.

All of these measures make campaign fodder – but they don't create a single job or do a single thing to balance the state budget.

The $1.3 billion deficit creates many bad things – things like cutting athletics and other programs at our schools, including Carl Albert State College; laying off people at the Department of Human Services who investigate abuse of the elderly; and cutting funding at the Department of Mental Health earmarked for assistance to military veterans who suffer from PTSD. You can pretty much pick any category that the State of Oklahoma deals with and it's being cut.

So for the last month or so what have we done here at the state Capitol? Well, like I said, it reminds me of show and tell. 

Every day we have a special person or group on the floor and we give them a citation and let them give a nice speech. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, pastors, football teams, baseball teams – you name it and we've probably had them or something similar on the floor to be recognized. Lately I've been threatening my colleagues that I am going to bring my pet frog and introduce it on the floor of the House.

It costs more than $100,000 a week to run the House of Representatives while we are in session. While I'm not against recognizing people, I do think we have a responsibility to not blow taxpayer money and bury our heads in the sand while our state crumbles around us.

In the meantime, does anyone in LeFlore County have a pet frog they could lend me?

It is an honor to serve the people of LeFlore County. What we do in the State Capitol matters; it affects lives and oftentimes it changes the fabric of our society. If you ever have an issue or need help with something, my office number is 405-557-7413, my email is James.lockhart@okhouse.gov, my home number is 918-653-7571, or you can find me on Facebook. My door is always open and your voice is always heard.

The Gayly - 4/26/2016 @ 11:29 a.m. CDT