Back in June, many politicians were avoiding the press and would not step up for sound principle on how state funding ought to be done.
But State Treasurer, Ken Miller, was not shy about any of it. Here's what he said, at the time.
For Immediate Release: June 28, 2017
Statement of State Treasurer Ken Miller
OKLAHOMA CITY - State Treasurer Ken Miller issued the following statement concerning his vote against final certification of the FY-18 budget during a meeting Wednesday of the State Board of Equalization.
"I have labored over this decision and have my own interpretation of the duty of this board. I reject the notion that equalization board members do not have the authority to exercise judgment and vote their conscience.
"I believe in co-equal branches ofgovernment and the checks and balances that brings. I do not believe this board should be a rubber stamp.
''If this budget, and the new revenues therein, are worthy of certification, it's hard to imagine one that is not, which would then beg the question of why today's action is even necessary.
''As a former appropriations chair, I have empathy for the great efforts and good intentions of budget negotiators this session. Even so, this budget has problems: violation of the spirit and probably the letter of the state constitution, estimate issues stemming from legal challenges, and continued structural imbalance caused by dependency on one-time funds.
"My vote today is not meant to browbeat or cast aspersions, but simply one of conscience.''
Treasurer Miller is commended for his plainly-stated advocacy for making sure the state manages funds properly.
My personal involvement with this...
My volunteer work extends deeply into the area of mental health advocacy and training. I volunteer my time to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) through the Oklahoma organization and I serve on the Tulsa affiliate's board. As the Chairman of the Legislative and Public Policy Committee, I spent a good deal of time at the capitol and in meetings with govt. officials from all levels.
A strategic decision was made by lawmakers to take away about 1/4 of the general revenue funding to ODMHSAS and instead, earmark about the same amount to come from the controversial new tobacco tax hike. I was repeatedly asked to advocate for this new tax. That pressure came from lawmakers, lobbyists, Contracted mental health providers, and other citizen advocates. But that earmarked money would only apply to the current fiscal year. After that, ODMHSAS would have to fight for sustaining capital from other means... perhaps some other new tax.
It's a way to get passionate advocates to do the work of activism for free. It's also a way to get the public to insist on the new funding because of the dire predictions of what the consequences would otherwise be.
Teachers in our public schools are very aware of this, because they have been played in much the same way. Remember how our education problem would be fixed, if only we'd approve of:
I continually said 'No' to those who asked me to advocate for the new tobacco tax. The truth is that the existing tobacco tax and TSET settlement money is sitting in the banks and the state will not let that $1Billion+ fund be used for addiction related care. Instead that trust is wasting it on frivolous ad campaigns about drinking enough water and other 'feel good' initiatives. I advocated a change in state code and policy so that TSET money could be accessed in a more responsible manner. Lawmakers ignored that idea.
Now the lawmakers are preparing a narrative for a special session and the rhetoric will heat up for even more tax schemes. We could just put the matter before the citizens for a vote. But they don't seem to trust us anymore. Well, we don't seem to trust them very much, anymore... so the feeling seems mutual.
I'll speak for myself. I am insulted that lawmakers, lobbyists, and corporate contractors would exploit the many families who care for loved ones with chronic mental illness. Public mental health is a constitutional role of the state and it's equitable funding is mandated in our state constitution. If you think it's more than you want to pay, then consider the high cost of not paying. When the state abdicates it's constitutional role, the counties are forced to get them off the streets through criminalizing their disoriented behavior and spending way more through county and municipal agencies. It is abject inhumanity.
Making these heroic families and individuals help push new taxes so the politicians can divert them to other programs, is highly unethical and indicates a lack of compassion for the suffering among us. This is a public safety mandate and we need to count on all govt. officials to understand that a sensible treatment hospital is far more essential to the state than a Pops Museum or High Speed Rail venture.
- David Van Risseghem
Richardson Addresses Tulsa Area Republicans About An Unconstitutional Set Of Revenue Bills & Voter Rage