July 6, 2015
As we move into the new fiscal year for all of our state agencies, it is difficult not to ask how far can agencies be cut before we delve into being unable to provide core functions of government? The majority of you who are still actively employed by the State of Oklahoma have experienced reduction after reduction in different areas over the last decade. Whether that is staffing levels, training opportunities, or to the extreme, the closing of some facilities, it is easy and understandable to feel discouraged by what appears to be a constant attack on the services state employees provide.
In fairness, the legislature took some steps this session to address much of what is to blame for agency budget issues, namely tax credits. However, there is more work to be done to improve revenue if we are to get back to an acceptable level of funding for state services. Even though Oklahoma’s economy is not in poor shape, giving away millions of dollars in potential revenue to companies that do not do enough to spur economic growth is a poor business practice. Furthermore, as state employees, we should be asking why the burden of balancing the state’s budget must be shouldered primarily on our collective backs.
As you speak with your legislators out in the district, ask these very questions. Let them know that Oklahoma is beginning to teeter into a public safety crisis due to the reductions to those providing core government services. If our state cannot adequately house dangerous offenders, serve the elderly and disabled or provide safe roads and bridges, do they want a crisis to occur on their watch? The fact is, we inch closer to that every year. It is past time to reverse the trend before services are irreparably damaged due to reductions. We are dangerously approaching the line of crisis.
As the saying goes, we should not “throw the baby out with the bath water”. All tax credits and incentives are not bad. In fact, if a company comes into our state and creates jobs, we should encourage those credits. However, right now many of those credits on the books are a drain on Oklahoma’s revenue and provide no economic benefit to the citizens of Oklahoma. They take away funds to pay for vital services.
Many of us were raised with value of hard work and contributing ourr fair share. Oklahoma must hold the companies receiving the tax incentives to this same value. OPEA represents these values on your behalf every day but we cannot take up the fight alone. We need you as our “boots on the ground” in your legislative districts telling your story about the importance of funding the services you provide to our citizens. After all, you carry the most weight with the folks who write the checks.
OPEA's mission is to unite public employees in Oklahoma to improve the quality of state employment. We are a grass-roots, member-driven organization. Our board and staff receive information and ideas through member dialogue and participation.