January 12, 2012
As we start a new year and look forward to a new legislative session it is important to look back and see where we have been. With the effects of the recession and the vastly more conservative look of the legislature, our funding for education has not been as high a priority as historically has been the case. We have suffered and struggled with many cuts over the last several years and there does not seem to be any consensus to expand the funding of education for the young people of Oklahoma at this time. In fact, it appears that we will see a lot of talk and effort to try to reduce taxes further even though there is already at least a $100 million hole in the budget that will require further cuts in the state's budget. Smaller government and lower taxes are the themes at the state capital at the present time. In addition to all the cuts in the education budget there are efforts to provide more of those scarce, limited funds to private and charter schools at the expense of all students attending public schools in the state. While those efforts to provide education funding to all Oklahoma children have many merits, they demand that more funds be placed in the eduction budget of the state and, in fact, just the opposite is happening. We must soon arrive at the conclusion that someone has to pay the bills that the legislature is creating and that someone should be those same groups who are doing just the opposite. One of the facts of life is there are no free lunches, we simply have to decide in this state if we value education enough to pay the bills or if we are going to abandon the time honored principal that every child in this state is guaranteed a free, appropriate education. As I see it, the debate is that simple. Do we want quality public education in Oklahoma and are we willing to pay the bills to support it.
This is shaping up to be a pivotal year in the battle to fund common education in this state. Everyone, parents, teachers, school boards and other tax payers should be heard in this debate as it affects the future of Oklahoma and its youth. Oklahoma's core services, education, roads, and law enforcement, must be funded at adequate levels to achieve the high quality that we all desire in these areas. If cuts are to be made in the budget this year, they must come in other areas that are less critical to the wealth, happiness, and safety of Oklahoma citizens.
There is much talk about ending many of the tax credits that have creeped into the tax code over the years. The problem with that is one group's economic incentive is another group's loophole that should be closed. It is a matter of most people are all for closing the tax loophole unless it is their ox being gored and then it becomes a vital and necessary economic necessity. It will be interesting to see if the legislature has the conviction strength to make those important decisions that would possibly allow an income tax cut for everyone.
It will not be an easy session for our legislators, they have many tough decisions ahead of them. With that in mind, we all should take every opportunity to let them know our exceptions as taxpayers and voters. We will watch the proceedings with much interest and try to keep you informed over the next months as this process plays out at the capital.
If you have comments or concerns about any legislation please email me and I will research it and get back to you.
Thanks for all you do for kids.
Executive Director, OTA