OKLAHOMA CITYIncoming Senate Democratic Leader Andrew Rice said budget numbers certified today by the Board of Equalization prove that Republicans have not delivered on their economic promises to Oklahomans who put their trust in them when they voted to turn over control of the Legislature to Republicans beginning in 2004.
In the years leading up to the historic takeover of the legislature by Republicans in both the House and the Senate, we heard many promises about how much better life would be in Oklahoma if Republicans were in charge, Rice said. They promised us a booming economy, better paying jobs, more affordable healthcare, and a rush of new corporations into Oklahoma. The Republicans have failed considerably in these areas, and the proof is in the numbers.
Rice said budget numbers certified today by the Board of Equalization show Oklahoma in a hole to the tune of one billion dollars. Whats worse Rice said, is a report released last week by the National Conference of State Legislatures, a non-partisan group responsible for monitoring policies and budgets of all 50 states, showing Oklahoma as facing the worst budget picture in the country.
My question to Republican politicians is simple, what happened to the thousands of better paying jobs you promised our citizens? What happened to the booming economy you confidently promised you would deliver to Oklahomans? What happened to making health care more affordable and protecting services upon which every Oklahoman depends?
Rice said under Republican control: a program that provided hot meals to Oklahomas elderly has ended, leaving thousands of Oklahoma seniors without food; public safety has been compromised because the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will have to cut the number of OHP officers policing our highways and interstates; a record number of Oklahomans have applied for Soonercare for their children with no money to cover them; and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections is saying they will have to release criminals back onto the streets long before they have served their full sentences. And the crisis for our public schools is about to get dramatically worse.
Rice said he is appalled the Republican President Pro-Tempore of the Oklahoma Senate surprisingly sees the severe crisis as good thing and was quoted in an AP article today saying the latest budget crisis could serve as, "an opportunity to restructure government into a more efficient and effective system.
This crisis is a far cry from the booming economy that the incoming Republican legislative leaders so confidently promised in 2004, 2006 and 2008, Rice said. And with budget numbers so dismal, my fear is that Republicans will soon begin the process of shutting down rural schools in order to fill this massive budget hole. Its no seret Republicans have long believed massive rural school consolidation would save the state thousands of dollars, and Im afraid they now have the "perfect storm" to put their theory into practice.
Rice said the Senate Democratic caucus has always been and will continue to fight to protect rural schools, and will work hard to ensurestate services that protect Oklahomas elderly and children undergo smaller cuts than those to other state agencies that can absorb more drastic cuts without putting the public at risk.
The Republican leadership has failed on the one policy promise which most Republican candidates have run on this decade: economic growth and prosperity, Rice said. Oklahoma's economy is in a free-fall and the right-wing Republican economic agenda has proven that it can do little to reverse it.
Hollow Words by Oklahomas GOP as They Campaigned for Control of the State Legislature
*In 2005, Hiett and Coffee issued a join press release unveiling a legislative agenda stating, As Oklahomans, we must work to provide more job opportunities and more hope for our states citizens, the leaders said. Our joint agenda gives Republicans a clear mission for the long-term good of Oklahoma.
*Just before the 2006 Legislative session began, the first Republican Speaker of the House, Todd Hiett issued this statement as he unveiled Republican policies he said would bring thousands of jobs to Oklahoma: "Hardworking Oklahomans deserve better job opportunities, higher wages and lower healthcare costs," said Speaker Todd Hiett (R-Kellyville).
*In 2007, Senate Republicans unveiled their Vision for a better Oklahoma with then Co-Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee stating, Today were presenting our vision for making Oklahoma a superior state in which to live and raise a family, receive an excellent education, work at a quality job, succeed in business, and comfortably retire.