The Oklahoma Senate Democratic Leader, Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, issued a statement today, commenting on the failure of HB 1054x in the House today:
“Today’s failure of the ‘A+’ revenue package is undoubtedly disappointing and frustrating. However, now is not the time for us to give up and settle on cash and cuts as a short-term fix for our long-term budget problem. Now is the time for us to redouble our efforts, push forward, and find a new path to a long-term budget solution which will protect the most basic, core government functions and services.
“Today, too many members of the House decided they did not support the ‘A+’ Plan. I believe there are only three reasons for a no vote on this plan: a preference to use cash on hand to plug the current budget shortfall; a preference to further cuts to the budgets of Oklahoma’s agencies; or a preference to pass a different revenue package.
“Today, more than ever, I am certain that cash and cuts are not a viable option for our state and the future of the core government functions and services on which our most vulnerable constituents rely.
“I am convinced that we cannot just use cash on hand to continue the budgetary shell games which have flourished at the Capitol over the last decade. Just this week, our intention to use the last of our limited cash to fill our long-term budget hole triggered Moody’s to downgrade Oklahoma’s fiscal status. They noted that using the last of our cash might help for a few months, but Oklahoma’s ‘inability to pass a comprehensive and permanent solution is credit negative.’ In addition, it was reported last month that Oklahoma’s current financial situation is so bad that we are one of the three states least prepared to handle an economic recession. Using one-time cash resources to fill our budget hole may ease the pressure to truly fix our budget problem, but it does nothing but highlight our ongoing fiscal mismanagement and inability to pass a comprehensive, long-term budget solution for our state.
“I am also convinced that there is no more room for cuts to core government services. We have cut to the point where we have four-day school weeks, a reduction in the Eight-Year Transportation Plan and we are facing the elimination of the ADvantage Waiver Program, which will force thousands of senior citizens out of in-home care and into nursing homes.
“For those who do wish to implement more cuts, I am asking you to show us where you wish to do so in your own district. Don't answer with the evasive and rhetorical 'fraud, waste and abuse.' Do you want to consolidate your schools or to turn four-day school weeks into three-day school weeks? Do you want to take roads and bridges in your district off the repair list permanently? Do you want to permanently close state parks or OSU Extension Offices or CareerTech Centers? Are you willing to cut funding for Meals on Wheels or senior nutrition centers or veterans hospitals? If you aren’t willing to support new revenue, now is the time to itemize, in your district, where you are willing to implement permanent, recurring cuts — not one-time cost savings.
“Finally, I am convinced that since neither cash nor cuts are responsible options for Oklahoma, the final alternative is to come back with another revenue plan in the coming days. This option is the most responsible, but it is also the one that requires the most work from us. I know we are all tired. I know we all have jobs and families who we are neglecting while we are here. But if you are a legislator, or a constituent, or a stakeholder in business which opposed today’s option, then we need you to help us put together another plan which will receive the necessary level of support from the citizens of Oklahoma and their legislators.
“We all owe it to our constituents to reject cash and cuts as our only options and continue to work toward a long-term budget solution which protects the most basic, core government functions and services without balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and the vulnerable. This is what our constituents demand of us and what they deserve from each and every one of us, with no exceptions and no excuses.”