I’m sure you have heard a lot about the “core functions of government.” Recently, I’ve been wondering if the Legislature’s idea of “core services” is in line with your ideas of what a government ought to be funding. I want to break down for you what the Legislature views as core services based on what it appropriates to them. It seems to me the core services we spend the most of your tax dollars on reveals the Legislature's priorities.
As you might expect, education received the greatest share of state money. Between common and higher education, combined with things like the arts council and career tech, the Legislature doled out 45.76 percent of its total budget to education. Common ed received 32.67 percent, which meant the Department of Education received more than $2.4 billion last year.
Public heath received the second largest amount of funding at 19.53 percent. Under that umbrella, the Legislature appropriated 13.34 percent to the Health Care Authority and 4.37 percent to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Agencies like the health department and the Department of Veterans Affairs each receive less than 1 percent of the state budget.
Human services received 10.41 percent of the appropriated budget. This funds the Department of Human Services, Juvenile Affairs, Rehabilitation Services and aid to the disabled population.
Transportation was allocated 9.05 percent of the budget. These funds are mainly directed to the ROADS fund and Dept. of Transportation to keep our roads and bridges maintained, paved and repaired. You've probably seen new bridges in the area, and they are due to these funds.
We spend a lot of time at the Capitol discussing public safety. As a whole, public safety received 8.14 percent of last year’s budget. Of that, the Department of Corrections received $485 million, or 6.53 percent. The Department of Public Safety received 1.2 percent, and the Legislature appropriated 0.17 percent to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Other public safety agencies received even less.
Working on the budget is an ongoing task. Senior lawmakers have called this year’s process the most open one ever. House leadership shares each scenario with the entire Republican caucus and we all have a say in them. I know it’s easy to believe this process is secretive and everyone is intentionally kept in the dark, but that is not the case this year.
In fact, House Republicans started rolling out the first few bills in a series of revenue measures last week. I was asked to present one of those bills on the House floor this week and experienced my first debate because of it. The measure passed 87-7. We also scaled back some tax credits and exemptions, and we’ll likely do more of that in the weeks to come.
To recap, based on the spending of the Legislature, the core functions of government rank as follows: Education, Healthcare, Human Services, Transportation and Public Safety. Do these core functions match up with what you believe is important? Reach out and let me know. You can call the office at (405) 557-7327 or email me at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov. Thank you, and God bless.
Marcus McEntire represents Oklahoma House District 50.