Oklahoma is in a bad shape. I’m not sure anyone at the Trump administration or Trump Tower would disagree, but reality comes from a foundation laid by facts. In recent months, at the discretion of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, the state has been filled with promises, promises to buy homes, promises to pay, guarantees the debt will be paid. The last round of promises is just broken now.
Just the other day, Roll Call reported that rumors surfaced of state officials buying homes for private citizens who owe money on those homes. This summer, the state will own two occupied homes as part of a court-approved deal. That’s $115,000 to buy them and insure them. Just the people who own them? Hardly enough to keep the costs from going way, way up.
Related Image Expand / Contract The Uteland Family and Washington County Housing Authority have managed to cobble together more than $113,000 to buy their home for the family, but that money may run out in a few months. (Frazier Red, Red Communications)
If the state keeps going, we may have to buy another house, too. This budget year, other officials have promised to buy a $660,000 home. It’s questionable if the state can pay back this. The mayor of Oklahoma City is trying to get his foot in the door by gaining equity in his house, and maybe he could save his city money in doing so, too. His $100,000, first-home equity investment in his house might save the state thousands.
Meanwhile, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum has asked for an additional $12 million in local spending, while requesting $5 million from Tulsa’s own city government. Considering that Tulsa’s budget is $800 million for the year, the cost of one or two more city employees could be offset by the saving of a few thousand in insurance. So far, he has not requested the city staff to cut any of its own spending.
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Kansas State Sen. Jim Denning recently (June 17) announced his bill seeking to force nursing home residents to have minimum state-approved staff. If their health aides are not approved by an outside group, then the facility must immediately hire the certified nursing assistants to fill the position. That kind of policy would have a big impact on jobs for high school or college-trained adult life aides.
Gov. Fallin proposes that housing crisis, while looking for ways to collect millions in fines from water and sewer utilities. The state Supreme Court recently gave permission for counties to automatically suspend the proper levy on utility companies. The governor’s office did not comment on whether the state is considering working with the counties to collect utility penalties at state expense.
Of course, every state owes the federal government something. The federal government owes the states the duty to obey federal laws. Regardless of what Gov. Fallin may or may not think, she is wrong.
The same is true for Oklahoma City. The city might be able to save the state money by installing more sewer lines, which the feds require. But that is a state government decision.
Erica Blum is a policy fellow with the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC). Follow her on Twitter.