The Oklahoma Legislature’s No. 1 job – crafting the annual state budget – is typically the stuff of palace intrigue: A small group of elected insiders gathers in secret, choosing fiscal winners and losers … which are then not revealed until the final hectic hours before the session’s constitutionally-mandated, end-of-May sine die.
This year, there was more drama than usual, as the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed the world economy, sub-zero oil prices battered state revenue forecasts, and Gov. Kevin Stitt became so estranged from lawmakers that he had virtually no say in shaping the FY 2021 budget.
The frostiness between the Capitol’s fourth floor – home of legislative leaders – and second floor – where the governor is ensconced in his corner office – was riveting theater, to be sure. But to focus on those things misses a more point: State budgets, you see, aren’t just about political power, green eyeshades and bean counting.
They are moral documents, impacting real people, often in ways we rarely pause to consider.
This week, in Observercast Episode 13: A Priority Of Compassion And Service, we take a deep dive into what our state budget says about us, as Oklahomans, and about our priorities with the Rev. Shannon Fleck, executive director of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches.