Rep Josh Cockroft, of Pottawatomi County, Comments on Budget Proposals
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Josh Cockroft (R-Wanette) issued the following statement today regarding proposals and negotiations that have emerged in budget discussions as the legislative session nears its end:
“Members of the House of Representatives have worked hard this year to find the right way to address the serious budget shortfall the state is facing. We have remained focused on finding ways to eliminate waste and inefficiencies and streamline state government, while protecting core functions such as education, healthcare, and public safety. Despite the challenges we face today, I believe we have the ability to set our state on a more firm foundation. I pray we choose the right path.
In meetings which House members have been a part of, we have identified around $1.7 billion in reforms in the form of apportionments, pass through dollars, tax credit eliminations or reductions, revolving fund reform, utilization of capital funds, and tax subsidy reform. Many members also continue to push for more line item budgeting processes for state agencies, which would allow greater accountability on how agencies can spend funds. While no member can support every one of these efforts due to the needs and desires of their district, an attempt must be made to seriously reform how we govern, before we look into expanding how much we govern. It is disappointing to me and many other members to find there seems to be more of an appetite to raise taxes and ignore significant reform than there is to address many of the serious issues we face. It’s easy to raise taxes. It’s hard to cut inefficiency and waste.
Many within the legislature are pushing the idea that a tax increase upon cigarettes is the only way to help fund our hospitals and nursing homes without cuts. That is false. The legislature has designated money in its budget since the first day of session for the Healthcare Authority to prevent further cuts. The final budget which will be passed this year will have the needed money included. There won’t be any rate cuts. Even if there were, I could not support that budget. Many also claim a sales tax, coupled with a service sales tax increase and changes to teacher’s health benefits, are the only way to provide a quality pay increase for teachers across our state. This is also false. It is entirely possible to provide a pay raise through elimination of inefficiencies without touching teacher’s health benefits or raise taxes on the middle class. I will not vote for any plan that plays games with our teacher’s benefits and salaries while looking to raise burdensome taxes on our businesses and individuals.
I cannot vote to raise taxes on the people of Oklahoma while turning a blind eye to waste and inefficiency. Raising taxes is a permanent action and should not be done lightly. I am not against tax increases, but only if our house is in order first. It should be the last option. It is high time that we run our state government like we do our family budgets; placing priorities over projects. When our personal budgets run short, the responsible action is to cut back on the least important outflow of income in order to make room for the most important. When we start to act in this manor, more money will be freed up for education, health, public safety, corrections, and other core functions of government.
Today, I call on my colleagues in the House and Senate to realize the serious detriment to our state should these plans pass. You cannot tax your way to prosperity. We must live within our means and run our state efficiently. It would be hypocritical for our state’s leaders who ran on a platform of efficient and transparent government, better funding for our core functions, and elimination of waste to turn around now and fight for a more burdensome and ineffective state government.
I hope my colleagues will join me in providing quality leadership for our state. Leadership is not doing the easy thing. Leadership is doing the right and responsible thing no matter how challenging. The people of Oklahoma elected their legislature – a mix of educators, businessmen and women, pastors, lawyers and many other occupations – to stand up and make the decisions which will positively affect Oklahoma in the long term, and not just the short term politically expedient ones.”
Rep. Josh Cockroft