It has been some time since my last correspondence. The reason for my delay in writing is that I simply do not know what to say. To say I am frustrated with our failure to pass a budget would be a major understatement.
I was at an event last week in Clayton where I told the people attending that I was talking to a man about my political frustrations and he wisely responded, “Son, you did not dig the hole, but the people of District 19 elected you to get your shovel, go to Oklahoma City, and fill that hole up.”
I agree with the man but the problem is, I didn’t know the amount of horse-hockey I would be required to shovel.
Let me be candid in giving my opinion: one of the biggest problems we have is a governor with no plans other than to raise revenue and keep shoveling it to agencies that have no oversight. She also breaks her agreements. She makes it very difficult to negotiate any reasonable budget. It appears she has an agenda; one which is to force school consolidations. It is unclear if she is creating a budget crisis out of incompetence or if she has plotted to use a budget shortfall to carry out her school consolidation plans. Make no mistake; Governor Fallin has declared war on public education. Regardless of her reasons, a large part of the problem can be placed squarely on Governor Fallin’s shoulders.
Another problem is our House of Representatives is tremendously divided on the best way to solve the budget crisis. One faction wants to raise taxes on cigarettes, beer, and motor fuel. Another group wants to raise taxes on oil and gas companies (gross production tax – GPT), and a third group wants to cut oversized government agencies. Which group is right? Personally, I strongly believe we are much too low on gross production tax and it should be raised. I also believe we need to hold state agencies accountable. The problem is we can never get all three groups to negotiate a fair and balanced plan and this results in the ongoing saga of our Oklahoma state budget crisis.
I personally do not like taxing the working class and think it is wrong. But, would I agree with some taxing to protect and save our schools, the elderly, and other critical services to our people? Yes I would! That is some of that shoveling I was talking about. However, you can bet that I am not going to give away the farm for free. If we’re not going to raise GPT, then we shouldn’t be raising the price of cigarettes. Plus, we are going to have to negotiate a plan for accountability and cuts in state agencies that have oversized administrations. We must work together to have all these parts in our plan or it will never achieve the required votes.
I have previously reported on how state agencies abuse their positions to threaten citizens with closing state parks and driver’s licenses offices. Now agencies are threatening to stop home health, end drug court, stop mental health treatment, and cut elderly programs. The agencies threaten the citizens of Oklahoma, who they should be serving, with loss of vital services as well as threaten their own state employees with the loss of their jobs. Agency heads make these threats to invoke outrage and incite the public. However, they frequently misrepresent their budget crisis and falsely report their intent to end services in order to do this. Many of these agency heads, who threaten to cut critical services to the poor and needy, pay themselves and their immediate subordinates ridiculous salaries. Now we have received recent reports about corruption, mismanagement, and waste by these agencies. I want to commend Speaker of the House, Charles McCall, who has called for an investigation and has already assigned a committee to begin the inquiry. I look forward to our committee achieving real results and taking corrective actions.
In closing, I want to ask all state employees to report any waste, fraud, and misuse of funds. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. I want you to know your information will be vital to adopt needed reform in our state. Remember, all state workers are protected by the Whistleblowers Act and I will personally work to make sure no action is taken against any employee who reports wrongful practices. I firmly believe the scripture in Galatians 6:9 that says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” I promise you I will not give up shoveling.
Proverbs 14:23 – In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.
Justin (JJ) Humphrey represents Oklahoma House District 19. He can be reached at (405) 557-7382 or Justin.Humphrey@okhouse.gov.