State colleges want a $97 million increase. From 2007 to 2012, state appropriations have declined as a percentage of the higher education budget, falling from 50 percent to 39 percent. The recession played a role, of course, but Chancellor Glen Johnson also attributes the decline to the growth of health care funding and prison needs, which diverted taxpayer dollars.
Road funding remains crucial to continue replacement of dilapidated bridges and repair of roads. The Department of Human Services is requesting $80 million more than last year, including $46 million to accelerate reforms enacted as the result of settling a class-action lawsuit over state oversight of abused children. At the end of the agency's five-year reform plan, state funding for DHS is expected to increase by nearly $100 million a year.
At the same time, the state Capitol continues to crumble. A new building is needed for the Office of the Medical Examiner. Capitol repair is expected to require at least $160 million; the medical examiner's office will cost $38.5 million.
Oklahomans are justifiably proud that the state has a balanced budget requirement. It avoids the irresponsible deficit spending of the federal government. But balancing the budget requires lawmakers to make hard choices. To keep the cost of government from ultimately imposing a greater tax burden on working Oklahomans, lawmakers will have to say “no” to even many worthy proposals.