ENID — Week after week and month after month of this fiscal year, the Oklahoma media outlets have been filled with the news of revenue shortfalls and cuts in agency budgets. These reports have been followed by stories of the crisis in state services as a result of these budget shortfalls.
Schools and colleges have been faced with first 5% cuts in state funding and now with 10% cuts. Other state agencies and services such as corrections, mental health, social services for children, public safety, Medicaid, and even nutrition programs for the elderly have all made similar cuts. Some have furloughed employees; others have simply reduced services to clients in need.
The republican leader of the Oklahoma State Senate says that he looks upon this calamity as an “opportunity” to clean up state operations and bring more efficiency to state government. Heavenly Days! This is like the captain standing on the deck of the sinking ship, while crew and passengers slide into the water, and shouting, “Take courage, me hearties, we will be better off for all this!”
It is interesting how our media and politicians seem to blame only the economic downturn for our state revenue crisis. No one puts two and two together, it seems. There are bothersome inconsistencies in publicized reports of state economic data which should alert any thoughtful analyst.
As of now, Oklahoma is reported to have the worst revenue shortfall, relative to size, of any state in the country. Yet our economy has been reported to be one of the least affected by the recession.
Does anyone remember all those reports which said that the Oklahoma economy has not been nearly as badly damaged by the recession as the economies of other states? Has anyone looked at reported unemployment statistics in Oklahoma compared to other states? Has anyone noticed that our unemployment rate is one of the lower ones?