Budget & Tax, Higher Education

The Bogus Budget: This one cut could solve the shortfall

May 2, 2017

Trent England

This is the second installment in OCPA’s “Bogus Budget” blog series, featuring examples of misleading claims of budget catastrophe and offensive insinuations of cheapskate taxpayers. We started yesterday with “Space Cadets.” All data comes from the Oklahoma Senate.

Today, we offer a single cut that could solve the state budget shortfall while taking an agency back to its 2013 level of spending.

The Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education and administrations of state universities and colleges have become a retirement center of sorts for former politicians. It is also one of the loudest voices at the Capitol and in the media arguing that it has been cut to the core.

Chancellor Glen Johnson, who earns more than the President of the United States, recently claimed,

For fiscal year 2017, cuts to public higher education exceeded $157 million, a 16.4 percent decrease from the fiscal year 2016 appropriation. With current appropriations below 2001 levels, funding for public higher education has been set back a full generation.

Perhaps Chancellor Johnson earns the big bucks because he is careful with his words. In his statement, he makes sure to mention “appropriation” and “appropriations” even while making it sound like that is all the money spent on state higher education in Oklahoma.

The chart below shows that while the legislative appropriations to higher education have declined, the total spending has dramatically increased.

Source: Oklahoma State Senate

In fact, total spending has increased so much in higher education that the legislature could zero out its appropriation altogether—saving more than $800 million, closing nearly all of the shortfall—and it would simply return this part of state government to slightly more than its 2013 spending level.