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Oklahoma's surplus revenue not likely to last for long

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Modified: January 18, 2013 at 6:58 pm •  Published: January 21, 2013

We're not talking here about people added through the Medicaid expansion that Fallin rejected, but those already eligible. The program's growth will chip away at dollars for other areas of government, such as schools, roads and public safety. In fact, Medicaid has already played a significant role in diverting money from the education budget in recent years.

When Texas officials rejected Medicaid expansion, they estimated it would cost $27 billion in additional state funding over a decade. That's roughly equal to the two-year shortfall facing Texas lawmakers in 2011, which forced cuts of $5.3 billion from schools and the draining of $3.2 billion from the state's rainy day fund. Does anyone doubt a similar-sized bill for Medicaid expansion would not have the same impact over time?

Ironically, some seeking new funds for Oklahoma schools also endorse Medicaid expansion. Financial reality and past experience suggest those two goals are largely incompatible. Achieving the latter makes the former all but impossible.

Without meaningful policy changes, we're nearing the point where most growth in state revenue will be consumed by Medicaid/welfare spending rather than schools, roads and public safety. This would benefit the low-income only so long as they don't need to read or write to apply for aid, travel a road to the hospital, or need help after being mugged on the way.

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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