OKLAHOMA CITY – The state budget dilemma has become more than a political issue. It has become a divisive and poisonous legislative process. I have been assured that I have witnessed and experienced one of the most frustrating processes I will ever endure.
I don’t propose to know the answer to this quandary, but as a sane, somewhat logical person of thought, I contend there are ways to overcome our resistance to doing what we know is best for our state.
The first is to agree that our budget situation is a product of our own making. We have to realize that the numbers do not lie. There are 73 Republicans compared to just 26 Democrats. Republicans chair all committees and have changed the rules to fit their ends.
(One in particular was in some sense unconstitutional. State Question 640, approved in a statewide vote in 1992, decreed that it takes three-quarters of the members of each house to approve a bill to raise revenue. On the first day of this year’s regular session, the Republicans put forth and passed a House rule that the majority floor leader can determine whether or not a bill is a revenue-raising measure. Of course, a court might rule otherwise.)
The Republicans have 73 seated House members; it takes only 51 votes to pass a budget. What I would like to see in the budget would include a 3% - 5% raise in the gross production tax on the oil industry, consolidated financial reporting for all Oklahoma corporations, restoring tax cuts and the earned income tax credit, etc. I want us to adopt a budget that reflects care and concern for our citizens, not a callous, calculated, and morally corrupt burden to those who are least able to afford to have their backs broken by taxes while the oil industry continues to report astounding profits.
Do not be fooled. The Republicans have 73 House members (two Republican seats are vacant); only 51 votes are needed to pass a budget. Why would the Republican Party need us Democrats to pass a budget? If we could put our “Restoring Oklahoma” budget plan up for a vote, I and many other legislators would vote for it. I cannot vote ‘yes’ on a plan that hurts my constituents, who elected me to represent them. If you steamroll me and my district – and you can (73 Republicans vs 26 Democrats) – you will not do it without resistance.
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
“Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.” Ralph Ellison