Oklahoma lawmakers have finally approved a state budget that includes pay hikes, albeit modest ones, for state employees. It marks the first real pay increase in eight years for thousands of workers, from those who walk the cellblocks at Oklahoma State Penitentiary to the teachers guiding our children in classrooms across the state.
It’s about time.
A report in September said per-pupil public spending in Oklahoma had fallen by more than 20 percent, the highest in the nation since 2008, which was when the recession began. And state prisons are short-staffed with men and women who make less than $12 per hour to keep Oklahomans safe from some of the state’s most dangerous criminals.
Gov. Mary Fallin’s screeching about funding shortages and budget shortfalls seems to have worn itself out, with thousands of Oklahoma teachers descending on the Capitol as the budget was being negotiated earlier this year (Fallin was out of town). And the insistence is even more suspect considering her rejection of federal aid for medical benefits for Oklahomans. Then there’s the oilfield boom that continues to keep the oil and gas industry healthy throughout most the state.
Budget crisis? Really?
Could it be the personal income tax cuts for those who make the most in Oklahoma? Or perhaps it’s the tax incentives - read less state revenue - for specific businesses and industries?
Whatever the cause, it appears the state leaders have finally heard the rallying cry from teachers and other state workers - enough is enough.