In Kathy Lohmer’s recent email to her constituents, she repeats the old and largely fictional talking points from the 2012 campaign, congratulating herself and the GOP for the “$1.3 billion surplus,” created with accounting tricks and budget “shifts” and not representing a true surplus at all. She claims that “We’ve used extra dollars to completely pay back the school shift…” But there are no “extra dollars” here at all; a $1.1 billion budget deficit still exists for the coming cycle -- $2 billion if you factor inflation in.
While better-than-expected revenue collection allowed the state to pay back a portion of what was borrowed from the schools, we still owe the schools $1.1 billion. We’re still a long way from paying it back. A headline in the December 21st Stillwater Gazette proclaims, “Revised ISD 834 budget ‘tightest in years’” – and schools across the state are suffering similarly.
Rep. Lohmer persists, too, in equating government budgets with household budgets, exhorting us to “live within our means.” That’s usually good advice when it comes to household finances – but government’s “means” – its income – and its obligations are determined in an entirely different way than those of an individual household.
We the people have determined collectively what services we want our government to provide by virtue of whom we elect to represent us. Government has the power – and, indeed, the obligation – to increase its income by increasing taxes on those it serves when revenues fall short of expenses.
But legislators like Rep. Lohmer believe that the only valid way for a government to meet its obligations is to continue to cut spending and then to cut taxes further to justify additional spending cuts in a downward spiral that shrinks government “until it is small enough to be drowned in a bathtub.”
Many of us disagree with that anarchistic dictum and would argue that taxation and spending are the valid roles of a government that serves the people it represents.
--Susanna Patterson, Stillwater