Budget & Tax

Michael Carnuccio | May 29, 2015

Free Market Friday: Strange priorities

Michael Carnuccio

Oklahoma’s legislative session has ended. Policymakers made policy changes that are significant, but passed a state budget that insults the reality Oklahomans face.

Concerning policy, lawmakers determined the status quo was unacceptable. They passed paycheck protection for government and education employees. This ends the practice of state government entities and school districts collecting union dues.

Legislation was enacted implementing state and education employee health care reform and passing Medicaid reforms that when fully implemented can save taxpayers more than $100 million annually, lower costs for employees and improve health outcomes.

An important new law keeps regulators from interfering with patients who pay directly for medical care, from primary care to surgeries, thus protecting this growing market for high-quality, lower-cost care.

Lawmakers also passed legislation that will stop local regulatory abuses of the oil and gas industry. Likewise, a new state law will stop bureaucratic red tape at the local level that was preventing the growth of transportation options like Uber and Lyft for Oklahomans.

Corrections reforms that expanded the ability of ex-offenders to earn state occupational licenses when appropriate and expanded judicial discretion were also adopted. More corrections reforms are necessary, but these were bold steps that took on the status-quo option.

However, regarding the state budget, legislative leaders announced by press release that in a year when lawmakers may have $611 million less to appropriate, they appropriated $17 million more than last year and suspended the rules that required the budget to be available for public review before being adopted by lawmakers.

While rains and flooding are washing out roads and bridges across the state, lawmakers chose to divert $100 million from roads, bridges and maintenance so they could continue irresponsible funding for rodeos, roping contests, festivals, an aquarium, attempts at space travel, losses on golf courses, taxpayer-subsidized horse racing, state-subsidized TV, undisclosed political earmarks, agency swag and organizational memberships that total more than $50 million per year.

Thousands of Oklahomans and their families are making tough choices and seeing declines in household income and jobs – thus the decline in tax revenue available for lawmakers to appropriate. But policymakers wouldn’t do with the budget what Oklahomans are doing with their own family budgets across the state – prioritize.

Michael Carnuccio

Former OCPA President

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