BY BRIAN RENEGAR
I find it interesting that over the last three years the Legislature and the governor have crafted a budget on one-time appropriated money. This is a system of “set up for failure” – especially when you throw in a tax cut in addition to leaving tax credits and benefits for corporations in place.
Now, trying to take the heat off Republican legislators who voted for these budgets, the governor is proposing a special session of the Legislature to give $140 million for a teacher pay raise from one-time money that they “found!”
Remember this is an election year. The money actually was not “found.” The governor’s Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger miscalculated the second revenue failure earlier this year and cut all state agencies too much. [You may remember Mr. Doerflinger as the agency head that received a $60,000 raise a couple of years ago.]
For those of you who do not keep up with the political rhetoric at the state Capitol, when OU’s President David Boren was advocating for the initiative petition for a one-cent sales tax to give teachers a $5,000 pay raise, he told the public that he was doing something the Legislature and the governor wouldn’t do: Give public school teachers a raise!
Most assumed the $140 million would be divided among state agencies in the proportion that each was cut. But the governor and Doerflinger seem to be playing favorites in dispensing this money.
I’m sure our DHS offices, health care entities, DOC, ODOT and DPS didn’t appreciate Doerflinger’s words when he proclaimed: “Many agencies have needs … a lot of agencies [like mine] simply don’t have as compelling a case for the money as education … ”
I guess the governor thinks if she can get teachers a $2,000 raise with this special session, voters will turn down President Boren’s one-cent sales tax proposal that will be on the November ballot. If that occurs, educators will be left out next year because the $140 million the governor proposes to use for the raise is one-time money.
If you will notice, the governor has not called a special session; she just told the media that she may. This is what we call “testing the political waters.” I suppose Gov. Fallin is waiting to see if she is going to be thrown a life ring or an anchor!
– Brian Renegar, a McAlester Democrat and veterinarian, serves District 17 in the Oklahoma House