For the fourth year in a row it has been my responsibility to vote against the state’s general appropriations proposal, commonly referred to as the state budget bill.
That’s because for a fourth consecutive year the general appropriations bill carries forward a large deficit into the next budget year.
The deficit has grown because lawmakers have continued to spend at a time when government revenues have slowed.
Instead of substantively downsizing spending, lawmakers have mostly attempted to fill the difference by raiding funds and raising taxes.
This doesn't solve the problem because the raids on the funds only pay the bills for a single year, and that means the deficit returns the very next year.
Additionally, the tax increases are clearly unconstitutional and are likely to be overturned by the courts, thus creating an automatic shortfall.
Even if the courts do not throw out the new taxes, this year’s appropriations bill still carries over an automatic deficit of at least 400 million dollars.
It also spends more money than last year's appropriations bill and it raids about 150 million from county and state transportation funds. It appears that this will be the first appropriations bill to raid money from the state's eight-year highway construction plan.
The raided transportation money will fund the many ongoing expenses that will continue to re-occur year after year; however, the raided money will be depleted after just one year.
Instead of raiding transportation funds, the Legislature could have enacted just a handful of the common sense fiscal reforms that have been needed for a long time and that would have saved the taxpayers many millions in the future. It's my intent to write about some of these expenses in a soon-to-be released article.
Unfortunately, the Legislature has not learned from the mistakes of the previous three years and it simply does not have the courage to offend the political sacred cows by reducing their spending.
This ensures legislators will remain trapped in their self-created perdition for at least one more year. I feel like that yet again, I and several others did our duty to help them make an escape but it's hard to help those who won't help themselves.
In the long term, it would have been much easier for the Legislature to make a handful of politically tough, spending reduction choices this year instead of extending the deficit to next year's session.
Their decision to increase state spending means that the state will once again face a massive "budget shortfall" next year.
Next week I will start to assess the damage and write about some of the new taxes and fees that they will be levying on Oklahomans.