Oklahoma's Budget Plan: Rob Peter to Pay Paul

Oklahoma’s Budget Plan: Rob Peter to pay Paul - November 8, 2015

State Representative David Perryman

                Borrowing lyrics from Hee Haw, the country music television variety show, a mournful tune wafts through the air between 2300 N. Lincoln Boulevard and the Governor’s Mansion next door.

“Gloom, Despair and Agony on me.”

“Deep, Dark Depression, Excessive Misery.”

“If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

“Gloom, Despair and Agony on me.”

                To be fair, the current price of oil is deepening Oklahoma’s budget crisis, but the Price Quotes for West Texas Intermediate Crude is not the only reason that the governor and legislative leaders are howling at the moon.

When oil was more than $100 a barrel, other states used the windfall to shore up education, repair roads and bridges and replace aging infrastructure. Instead, Oklahoma let its highways and county roads continue to deteriorate and gave a huge tax cut to oil and gas producers.

When Oklahoma’s unemployment rate was lower than a snake’s belly and employers and employees were in “high cotton,” other states took steps to improve health care and address mental illness. Instead, Oklahoma cut benefits to injured workers and gave income tax cuts to the wealthy.

When Oklahoma’s economy was ginning right along instead of planning for the future, we pandered to campaign contributors and gave away hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax credits and rebates.

A little planning could have avoided much of the current crisis. One should not have to dust off his copy of Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” to predict that the proverbial “invisible hand” of supply and demand would correct the market. Consequently, OPEC and domestic oversupply has suppressed prices, profitability and tax revenue. Market forces have resulted in a 12 year low of active rigs with only 83 today compared to 208 during the first week of November 2014.

Economic indicators and indexes published by Creighton University and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia show us that for the first time since the Great Recession of 2008-2010, Oklahoma’s monthly receipts have dropped for six straight months when compared to the prior year.

The $590 Million budget hole from last year will likely grow to somewhere around $1 Billion this year since the budget projections were based on $57.55 per barrel oil and the current price is hovering at just over $45. A difference of more than 20% will result in unprecedented budget cuts so that Peter can be robbed to pay Paul.

According to the Creighton study, Oklahoma’s Business Conditions Index fell for the sixth straight month to a weak 40.1, signaling that state businesses will likely eliminate thousands more jobs between now and March 2016. State Treasurer Ken Miller was aware of losses of sales tax revenue and that Oklahoma had just lost nearly 6 percent of its manufacturing jobs when he said, “Revenue growth from the past year has been erased and indications are the situation is going to get worse before it gets better.”

It doesn’t take a quartet from Hee Haw to tell us  “It’s not as bad as we thought. It’s worse.”

Call or email with questions or comments at 800-522-8502 or 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov.