| May 11, 2011
Countdown to the budget deal: Who’s irresponsible now?
Editor’s Note: At $16.6 billion, Oklahoma government spending is at an all-time high. At $26 billion, Oklahoma’s debt load is staggering. Oklahoma voters have installed a center-right government to do something about it. As the legislative session winds down and the FY-2012 budget is finalized, policymakers should keep in mind that their constituents are not interested in “revenue enhancements.” By a 4 to 1 margin, they are interested in smaller government.
The Oklahoman recently informed us that University of Oklahoma president David Boren says a tuition increase is forthcoming. President Boren places the blame on what he calls an “irresponsible” state income-tax cut. “It is time people take a stand and make a decision,” he is quoted as saying. “Do you want some services from your government that improve your quality of life, or do you want tax cuts? You have to pick one or the other. You can't have both.”
It is difficult to believe that Oklahomans aren’t presently receiving services from their government, given that Oklahoma government spending is currently at record levels. In fact, many would argue that it’s this government profligacy which is in fact “irresponsible.” And if asked to “take a stand and make a decision,” their decision likely would not be the one President Boren was hoping for.
Oklahoma families are facing rising costs for food, gasoline, medical care, and other goods and services. It is not irresponsible to let families keep more of their own money. Some of the following items, however, might reasonably be described as irresponsible:
• OU paying former Senate President Pro Tem Cal Hobson a salary of $146,921 in FY-2010 to be an “assistant administrator” [all salary data are from Office of State Finance] even as Mr. Hobson was receiving a state pension in FY-2010 in excess of $77,000
• OU paying former House Speaker Pro Tem Danny Hilliard a salary of $170,371 in FY-2010 to be an “executive officer”
• OU paying former Senate chief of staff and Senate fiscal staff director Brian Maddy a salary of $316,494 in FY-2010 to be the CEO of OU Physicians
• The Regents for Higher Education paying former Speaker Glen Johnson a salary of $394,983 in FY-2010 to be the Chancellor of the Regents for Higher Education
• The Regents for Higher Education paying former Senate political/policy staffer Amanda Paliotta a salary of $168,000 in FY-2010 to be an “executive officer”
• The Regents for Higher Education paying former Senate staffer and state finance director Tony Hutchinson a salary of $145,000 in FY-2010 to be an “executive officer”
• The Regents for Higher Education paying 15 people in the range of $100,800 to $394,983 annually to be “executive officers,” “directors,” and “professionals”
• Oklahoma colleges and universities adding more than 3,000 full-time employees in four short years, and setting record FTE levels for Oklahoma colleges and universities
• OU increasing administrative costs per 100 students 51.7 percent from 1993 to 2007, and increasing tuition (adjusted for inflation) 101.4 percent, while enrollment increased only 20.2 percent
• OSU increasing administrative costs per 100 students 36.7 percent over this same period, and increasing tuition (adjusted for inflation) 98.1 percent, while enrollment increased only 21.2 percent
• A state of Oklahoma’s limited size and wealth trying to own and operate 26 colleges and universities
Nearly every sector of the economy experiences contractions and learns to achieve efficiencies with fewer resources. Universities should be no different. OCPA has recommended that the Regents for Higher Education’s budget be reduced $250 million, to near FY-2004 levels, when people still were graduating from college at the same rate and the sky had not fallen.