BY DAVID PERRYMAN
According to the Oklahoma Constitution, the Legislature must adjourn sine die by 5 p.m. on the last Friday in May. The Constitution also provides that no revenue raising measures may be heard on the House floor during the last five days of the legislative session.
Those Constitutional mandates mean that the First Regular Session of the 56th Oklahoma Legislature will adjourn on or before 5 p.m. on May 26 and that any bills to increase taxes must be heard no later than Friday, May 19.
Although adopting a balanced budget is the most important job of the Oklahoma Legislature, it appears that we are flirting with disaster.
The consensus of most people is that Oklahoma does not have enough revenue to meet the expense of educating our population or providing safe roads and bridges or providing fire protection or paying state employees or bearing the cost of incarceration of our prisoners or any number of other core services.
There is much disagreement about how we got here. Some say that the Legislature cut the income tax rate too much on people earning upwards of $200,000. Some people say that elected officials were too generous with corporate incentives and tax cuts and other forms of corporate welfare.
There is still disagreement as to whether we have a revenue problem or a spending problem.
In any event, the Oklahoma Legislature has been meeting since the first Monday in February and now has a very limited time to take care of business and correct things. There is no excuse for the time crunch we are in. The budget could have been addressed four months ago. Unfortunately there have been far too many distractions and far too little focus.
Freddy Fender, American Tejano, rock and roll and country music artist, could have summed our situation up by reciting the titles of a few of his hit songs. The weeks and weeks of legislative inaction were comprised of Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.
Oklahomans who are hurting because of revenue failures are realizing that it is Crying Time and they are looking for ways to Help Me Make It Through the Night. The pride that Oklahomans have had for generations is at risk as our childrens’ futures become bleak and we see that unless we do what is right, You’ll Lose a Good Thing.
Education funding has been cut to the point that many see in their future that they may always be a Girl Who Waits on Tables.
Of course, the self-destruction is based on the Legislature’s failure to represent people instead of corporate and wealthy campaign donors. Things must change Before the Next Teardrop Falls.
Hopefully the legislators who have placed the interests of campaign donors over the working middle class will have a tough time Livin’ it Down.
There is nothing that the Legislature can do in a special session that it cannot do in the final two weeks. There is no reason to spend an additional $31,000 per day doing work that needs to be done now. It is imperative that the Legislature gets to work in the best interest of Oklahoma and its people, including the elderly and children. Otherwise, in anguish we will say, Please Don’t Tell Me How It Ends.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House