Budget cuts, furloughs should not target essential services, Dank says

From Legislative Staff Release

Oklahoma is badly mismanaging its ongoing state budget crisis by imposing dangerous across-the-board cuts and untargeted employee furloughs that reduce essential state services, state Representative David Dank, an Oklahoma City Republican, said in a recent release sent to CapitolBeatOK.

“A private business that handled a downturn as foolishly as state government would have to close its doors,” Dank said. “We are failing to set sensible priorities, and it is time to take it out of the hands of bureaucrats and address this very real crisis with some common sense solutions. That means targeted cuts and furloughs that preserve essential services, and it also means that some senior managers in these state agencies also need to sacrifice by giving back their pay raises or taking a pay reduction. Those rollbacks should first be applied right here in the Legislature to the senior staff in the House and Senate.”

Dank said imposing across-the-board five percent budget cuts for all state agencies “is endangering the elderly and other vulnerable populations, making our state less safe and working an unacceptable hardship on children. The simple truth is that some front line state employees are more valuable to the public than others, and we need to hold harmless from furloughs those who provide essential services.”

Dank urged Gov. Henry and legislative leaders to craft policies that would assure that furloughs and layoffs not hit classroom teachers, law enforcement and correctional officers and case and field workers who provide direct services to seniors, children, the developmentally disabled and others in need. He said budget cuts should not trim vital nutrition programs for the elderly or children.

“The first to be furloughed should be the senior managers and office and support personnel,” he said. “In addition, we have been told that a number of generous raises have been given to local school administrators and senior managers in state agencies since the budget crunch began. Those raises should be rolled back to 2007 levels until this crisis is past.”

Dank also urged the Governor and legislative leaders to launch a detailed review of tax credits given to certain state businesses and industries.

“We are forfeiting tens of millions in revenue dollars through these tax credits,” he said. “Some are surely necessary and helpful, but we know that others were simply giveaways. I would encourage the leadership to instruct the Revenue and Taxation Committee to closely review those tax credits in public hearings and recommend which ones can be ended or suspended during this time of crisis. They should specifically look for tax credits that create no jobs or other economic activity and recommend which of those should be repealed in the upcoming session.

Dank said he would not support a tax increase to help the state through its budget crisis.

“We will get through this, but we have to do it more sensibly,” he said. “It is simply nonsense to give a non-teaching school administrator a big salary and then send a teacher home with no pay. It is outright dangerous to understaff our prisons and law enforcement agencies while senior managers sit in offices drawing large paychecks. We need to set some sensible priorities or Oklahomans will be right to wonder who is running the store out at the State Capitol.”