Senate President Pro Tempore Cal Hobson said Friday that a Republican senator who recently claimed that $1 billion could be cut from the state budget needs to produce a list of just where those cuts could be made.
“I challenge Senator Brogdon to put his cuts where his mouth is. Rhetoric like claiming that nearly 20 percent of state spending can be eliminated is easy to spout. It’s much harder to enumerate, however. If Senator Brogdon is so certain that $1 billion is being wasted on state services that aren’t a priority, then he owes to all of Oklahoma to tell us where to make the cuts,” said Hobson, D-Lexington.
In a recent published report, Senator Randy Brogdon said state leaders haven’t prioritized Oklahoma’s needs and claimed “we probably have $1 billion that we could cut out of our budget if we would really prioritize our spending ….”
Hobson issued his challenge to Brogdon, R-Owasso, in a letter delivered to the freshman senator’s office Friday. In the letter, Hobson told Brogdon that it would only be fair for the list of cuts to affect his district and not be aimed specifically at other areas of the state.
In the letter, Hobson questioned why Brogdon hasn’t already come forward with a suggested list of cuts.
“He’s a member of the zero-based budgeting committee that has met more than a dozen times in the last 11 months. If he knows how to save $1 billion why hasn’t he shown us how it can be done already,” Hobson said.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Mike Morgan, co-chair of the zero-based budgeting committee, said Friday he would consider calling a meeting of the committee soon to allow Brogdon to identify the $1 billion in cuts he says could be made in the state budget.
In his letter, Hobson, a 26-year member of the Legislature and former chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, also reminded the second-year Republican of a plea Brogdon made in the spring for the president pro tempore to make more money available for appropriation by the Senate Appropriations Sub-committee on Human Services.
“Certainly you realize that cutting $1 billion from the state budget would make even less money available for the budgets of agencies under the sub-committee on which you serve. You can’t have it both ways.
You can’t cut $1 billion from the budget and not affect families and services in your district or without cutting the budgets of almost every agency, including those who come to the Human Services Committee pleading for money,” Hobson wrote in the letter.
Hobson pointed out that the FY 2004 state budget of $5.1 billion was actually more than $500 million less than the original appropriations for FY 2002.
“Over two years we cut $500 million out of the budget when the national economy crashed and state revenue plummeted. Those cuts affected real people in every county in every corner of our state,” said Hobson, who compared the recent budget crisis to the state experienced during the oil bust in the 1980s when Hobson was a member of the House.
“I’ve had to make those hard choices twice during my legislative career. I know how they affect Oklahomans and I know first hand that making the cuts is much harder than telling a reporter about it without providing a detailed list of the proposed reductions,” the Senate leader said.
Hobson also criticized Brogdon for claiming that the Democratic leadership in the Legislature is standing in the way of meaningful tax system changes in Oklahoma.
“Before you came to the Capitol, I served on a task force that worked for two months on a comprehensive tax reform proposal that lowered the state’s income tax rate and broadened the state’s sales tax base. The task force included Democrats and Republicans, government leaders and business people appointed by the Democrat legislative leadership and former Governor Frank Keating, a Republican.
“The proposal died, however, because in the end we couldn’t garner any Republican support when the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce president said his organization wouldn’t back the measure. Even Governor Keating backed off his call for tax reform. It turned out that it was easier for the governor and members of the minority party to talk about tax reform than it was for them to actually do something about it,” Hobson said.
The Senate leader said Republicans are always banging their drum for tax reform and budget cuts, but almost never offer specifics to back up their politically-motivated rants.
“Senator Brogdon has bragged about his budget writing experience as a member of the Owasso city council. Surely he knows that you can’t just cut $1 billion out of a $5.3 billion budget without detailing what programs and services would be cut back or eliminated,” Hobson said. “I challenge him to show us the list of cuts he proposes.”