It was a week of more bad financial news for state leaders.
“Our situation is dire,” Oklahoma Finance Director Preston Doerflinger told the State Board of Equalization.
Lawmakers found out this week the projected budget deficit for next year has widened and revenue projections for this year were off by more than five-percent.
“To use a pretty harsh word our revenues are difficult at best. Maybe they fall into the category of somewhat pathetic,” said Doerflinger.
Governor Mary Fallin added, “We can’t keep moving money from one place to the other, what I’d call a smoke and mirrors game, acting like we had revenue when we didn’t.”
The so-called revenue failure lead to across the board cuts. Education saw its budget slashed by $11-million. The department of corrections lost $3-million, prompting a hiring freeze.
“I worry about the size of our population and it’s growth and not handling it in a proper way,” said DOC Director Joe Allbaugh.
A Senate committee did pass a school voucher bill this week.
“This is totally opposite of what I understand about the purpose of public education,” said Senator Rn Sharp (R) District 17. “The purpose of public education is for everyone to contribute for a child’s education.”
Another committee passed a bill that would allow businesses to turn customers away based on their beliefs.
“This bill is the most discriminatory piece of legislation we have seen in the country,” said Troy Stevenson with Freedom Oklahoma.
The bill’s author, Senator Joseph Silk (R) District 5, said in defense, “If you start forcing people to participate in behavior it never stops.”
A Senate committee reluctantly passed Real ID legislation.
“I know if we don’t the wrath of the federal government will fall upon our citizens. Because if we don’t comply, our citizens will be punished by the federal government,” said Senator Frank Simpson (R) Majority Whip.
The House passed a bill changing the school grading system, giving more leeway to black students; a move opponents call institutionalized racism.
“I don’t even know how you can sleep at night. I don’t know how you can sleep at night,” Representative Regina Goodwin (D) District 73 told fellow lawmakers.