Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

State News

February 4, 2014

Gov. Fallin proposes tax cut, bond programs during Legislative address

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

“Investors are looking for a highly educated and trained work force. It is a tragic mistake to invest less per student in education than is being invested in surrounding states.”

David Blatt of the Oklahoma Policy Institute responded that as Fallin calls for another tax cut, the budget is already $572 million below Fiscal Year 2009 after inflation. Oklahoma has jumped from a budget shortfall in a national recession to an equally serious shortfall of our own creation, he said.

“Especially troubling is that at a time when Medicaid needs new funding just to continue existing services, the governor suggests cutting state funding for Medicaid while continuing to refuse federal funds,” Blatt said.

State agencies have something that most families do not have, Fallin said. State government has $830 million every year in revolving fund accounts.

“Many agencies can’t support critical programs and operations by tapping into these funds,” Fallin said. “State government must be more transparent and accountable in its budgeting. Shedding light on revolving funds will achieve that goal.”

State government needs to attract and retain hard-working, dedicated employees by compensating them fairly, Fallin said. State employees receive a salary and benefits package that is equivalent to other states, Fallin said. However, the way the state spends money on employees is lopsided.

“Many employees working for the state of Oklahoma have salaries far below the private sector and other states,” Fallin said. “Meanwhile, their health care and benefits are far more generous.”

Fallin said she supports state money going to some employees who are paid below their market value. The current pay system should reward performance over time served, Fallin said.

“New hires within the Oklahoma Employees Retirement System should be moved from the outdated, mid-20th century pensions to a more affordable and flexible 401(k) style benefits used in the private sector,” Fallin said without Democratic applause.

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