BY DAVID PERRYMAN
As have most children, I once undertook to dig to China. I am unsure why China is the anticipated destination of most amateur excavators, but I don’t remember anyone ever setting out to dig their way to Australia.
I am certain that most of us who began digging had never heard of Henry David Thoreau, let alone read his 1854 book Walden in which he related the story of a crazy fellow who claimed that he gotten so far in his digging that he heard the rattling of Chinese pots and pans.
Likewise, we had not heard of the term “antipodes” which is Greek for “foot to foot.” Two persons standing at antipodes would be closest together at the soles of their feet. Today, American children have online access to an Antipodes Map that allows them to pinpoint their precise destination in the middle of the Indian Ocean, clearly showing that they and Thoreau’s “crazy fellow” were both badly mistaken when they speculated that China would be their destination.
Speculation is a dangerous thing. Just ask the Oklahoma Legislature. Over the past 10 years the Legislature has speculated that draconian cuts to taxes on corporations and the wealthy and handing out virtually unlimited tax credits and deductions would create jobs, allow our economy to grow and provide sufficient government revenue to fund education, transportation and social services.
Today, critical services like public education, mental health, Medicare, Medicaid, rural hospitals and ambulance services, roads, bridges, fire and law enforcement, jails and other correctional facilities are facing “unprecedented” cuts. Services that protect our children and elderly are being downsized and risk being cut all together.
The bottom line is that Oklahoma and Oklahomans who are least able to cope with the loss of services are hurting and no one is to blame except the leaders of our state.
There are a number of solutions to our financial situation, but no one is willing to step up for the people of Oklahoma and reverse the decisions that put us in this situation. In fact, there are groups even today who continue to twist the arms of the governor and legislators to make further cuts in the Oklahoma income tax rate. Incredibly, they are listening to these groups who have no regard for the harm being inflicted upon Oklahomans.
Legislators and the governor are proposing to use one-time funds to pay for recurring expenses. It is fiscally irresponsible to incur an expense that will recur year after year but use funds that will not be available in future years.
Another “solution” in the governor’s budget is to borrow $450 million to spend this year for roads and bridges. That plan to divert money from the current transportation budget for other purposes is nothing but a misguided plan to “borrow ourselves out of debt.” Loans must be repaid and it will take years and years to repay the $450 million. This bad fiscal policy increases the state’s future debt for several years thus decreasing the amount of revenue available for ongoing expenses.
Will Rogers said, “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” We are definitely in a hole but the budget plan is to keep digging.
If Oklahoma children were able to dig deep enough, they would find themselves about two miles under water in the Indian Ocean. Under water is the same term you would use to describe Oklahoma’s financial situation.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House