For the Children: State Government is Failing to Help the Needy

“[T]he Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a recently passed cigarette “fee” is a devastating blow (over $200 million) to agencies tasked with health care…”

OICA CEO Joe Dorman
OICA CEO Joe Dorman

***Editors Note: Mr. Dorman was the 2014 Democratic Candidate for Oklahoma Governor.  He is a guest contributor for the State Crier with his weekly column “For the Children.” Mr. Dorman also serves as CEO of Institute Child Advocacy, a Oklahoma Non-Profit group focusing on Child Advocacy. The StateCrier thanks Mr. Dorman for his continued contributions.   http://oica.org/  ***

(Oklahoma City, OK)If you have driven the H.E. Bailey Turnpike south from Oklahoma City, you have most likely seen a billboard that reads, “Government takes from the Needy and gives to the Greedy,” a statement that is famously attributed to President Ronald Reagan. The quote is from a speech that Reagan gave before Congress, where he basically discusses how government programs often do not actually serve those truly in need. He believed far too many people abuse the system, benefiting from services they do not need or should be providing for themselves.

To this day, we regularly hear this concern from many politicians who argue for cutting spending, citing “waste, fraud and abuse” within government. While I believe the overwhelming majority of taxpayer dollars are used to support essential and necessary programs, sometimes these fiscal hawks are right. That’s why OICA was proud to support legislation this past session to

improve the use of audits for agencies, helping to verify that dollars are truly going to benefit who Ronald Reagan described as “the needy,” rather than being wasted or misappropriated to “the greedy.”

With that being said, we are now facing an entirely different dilemma when it comes to state government: a massive revenue shortfall that is starving state agencies and eroding the quality of our government services. While our budgeting problems go beyond just this legislative session, the events of recent weeks have made this shortfall worse. As I have written before, the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a recently passed cigarette “fee” is a devastating blow (over $200 million) to agencies tasked with health care services. Meanwhile, several other constitutionally suspect revenue bills are also being considered by the court and may end up on the chopping block as well.

The ongoing budget crisis can be addressed by the Legislature when they return in February or, in the event that Governor Mary Fallin calls a special session, earlier. The governor has indicated she prefers the latter route and will likely call a special session once the Supreme Court has ruled on all revenue raising measures. OICA is supportive of this action, as we feel the Legislature cannot wait until 2018 to adequately fund state government and the services that some of our neediest citizens rely on.

At its core, this is about whether or not the Legislature can do its primary job: passing a budget that keeps our government functioning. While it would be highly unlikely we would see a government shutdown in our state, agencies are considering furloughs and layoffs while slashing services that vulnerable children, the elderly and the sick rely on.

Some legislators argue that reductions in services should be blamed on agencies, not the Legislature. For instance, many lawmakers were upset when DHS announced it would deal with its budget shortfall by reducing payments to foster parents.

There are two ways that lawmakers can consider protecting programs like these. The first is to identify priorities and give them a line-item in the budget, rather than simply appropriating a lump sum to an agency. While it is not advisable for lawmakers to micromanage agencies, if there is something specific which they feel should not be cut, a line item can address that concern. All businesses and nonprofits do this, so policymakers should also consider that option.

Second, lawmakers need to recognize that funding for Oklahoma’s state government is not adequate to support “the needy.” To prevent a short-term crisis, we need immediate relief in the form of a special session that provides new revenue. Just as importantly, we need a long-term vision that stabilizes the state’s finances and allows us to provide adequate services for kids and vulnerable adults.

About Joe Dorman 4 Articles
A committed public servant for almost 20 years, Rep. Joe Dorman has dedicated his career to making life better for all Oklahomans. His love for service began at an early age with the lessons of his parents, Bill and Jan Dorman. Their example led him to know without a doubt that serving others is the highest calling. Joe began his service to the State of Oklahoma as a mail clerk, then working his way up to an executive staff member at the Oklahoma House of Representatives. Since 2003, Joe served as the State Representative for his friends and neighbors in Rush Springs and Grady, Caddo, Comanche, Cotton and Stephens counties. While in the legislature, Rep. Dorman has been known as a common sense legislator willing to work across party lines to help his fellow Oklahomans. In fact, those efforts earned him praise from an editorial in the The Oklahoman acknowledging, “Dorman has repeatedly demonstrated why he’s among the best and brightest, not just in his own political party but among all lawmakers.” This unique ability to lead by example, to find workable solutions for the hard-working people of Oklahoma established him as a true public servant. Whether it’s fighting for education, sound fiscal policy, worker’s rights, better treatment of our seniors or the safety of our schoolchildren, Joe has time and again demonstrated a devotion to service. He is proud to place the needs of all Oklahomans over politics. A proud Oklahoman, Joe remains close to his roots and the community that formed his strong love for this great state. A graduate of Rush Springs High School, Joe earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oklahoma State University in 1994. Joe currently is a guest contributor for the State Crier with his weekly column “For the Children.” Joe also serves as CEO of Institute Child Advocacy, a Oklahoma Non-Profit group focusing on Child Advocacy. http://oica.org/ Politically, Joe serves as a City Counselor for his hometown of Rush Springs, Oklahoma. Please follow him on Twitter @JoeD4OK His email is jdorman@oica.org