Shutting Down the Government Oklahoma Style

Shutting Down the Government Oklahoma Style - January 21, 2018

State Representative David Perryman

                The past week has been a display of that seamy underside of government that repulses so many Americans. Political parties are more concerned about who gets the blame for shutting down the government rather than reaching consensus on what is best for our country. Four times in the past 25 years the federal government allowed itself to be shut down.

                The most recent edition of Washington gridlock has occurred because the federal government failed to pass a full appropriations bill prior to the beginning of the fiscal year and now is attempting to piecemeal the federal budget by a series of continuing resolutions. Since keeping the federal government open is theoretically a goal of both the Democrats and the Republicans, each have historically attempted to leverage their positions when a vote is needed.

                In this year’s version, the Republicans are in the majority in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate and of course control the White House. Politically, the minority party does not receive much consideration for their version of what is best for America and therefore when someone comes along and wants a legislator’s vote, conventional wisdom and good government would involve a process of bargaining to arrive at a solution that is palatable to all involved.

This past week it became clear that the majority is seeking the minority’s votes and the minority is attempting to initiate the process of negotiation to address the CHIP program and DACA. Without getting in the weeds, the CHIP program is the Childrens Health Insurance Program that provides states with matching funds for health insurance for kids whose families are too poor to afford health insurance coverage. DACA is the program that allows immigrants who were living in the U.S. in 2007, were brought to the Country by their families before their 16th birthday, have lived here continuously, have taken advantage of educational opportunities, have not been in trouble with the law, and re-apply every two years but are barred from applying for citizenship because of their status as a DACA recipient.

                The gridlock has arisen because one party wants the CHIP program and DACA to be voted on and the other party refuses to allow it to be voted on.  While those are federal issues and the federal government does not have a Constitutional provision requiring a balanced budget, Oklahoma is facing a remarkably similar version of gridlock.

Over the past ten years, Oklahoma has adopted budget after budget that contain cuts to agencies and underfunds core services.

Cutting the K-12 Education budget by reducing state aid by 26.9% since 2008 results in 4 day school weeks and the crippling of a school district’s ability to educate children. Cutting the state’s Higher Education budget by 17.8% between 2012 and 2017 results in the inability of the state to produce college graduates and those students who do graduate often do so with a mountain of college debt.

Oklahomans rank third in the nation (22.4%) for affliction of mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar or anxiety disorders. Budgetary cuts have left thousands of patients without services and medication.

 The cuts go on and on and involve health care, hospitals, roads and bridges and virtually every other aspect of state government.

The bottom line is, there is more than one way to shut down a government and Oklahoma shows day in and day out that it is very proficient in doing so on a routine basis.

Thanks for allowing me to serve. If you have any questions or comments, please call or write, 405-557-7401 or David.Perryman@okhouse.gov