A View From The Edge

The Oklahoma Budget Crisis Hasn’t Hurt Everyone.

We are all painfully aware of the current budget problems in Oklahoma.

The FY2016 budget started with a $611 million dollar shortfall that turned out to be overly optimistic. As a result of overestimating potential revenues, the state was forced to announce a revenue failure in December, triggering an additional (and unanticipated) $176.2 million in cuts in agency allocations for the current budget year.

This include cuts of $46.7 million dollars from common education over the remaining six months of the fiscal year.

Suffice it to say that the current state financial problems are making life more difficult for a large number of Oklahomans.

Meanwhile, the majority of state agencies are struggling to maintain core services for the citizens of our state. Many of these agencies, to include schools, will be required to slash personal costs to stay solvent during FY2016 and succeeding years.

But, not everyone sees this as bad news.

When announcing the possibility of a revenue failure as well as a projected $900 million gap for the FY2017 budget at a December press conference, State Budget Director Preston Doerflinger stated, “The fact that we find ourselves in this position is providing us with a tremendous opportunity.”

Doerflinger may be correct. This budget shortfall is bound to give thousands of Oklahoma citizens the “tremendous opportunity” to look for new employment, learn to live on less income, and deal with reduced government assistance.

As Rick Cobb wrote in his post last night, it’s not like Mr. Doerflinger didn’t have anything to do with the decision-making that has led Oklahoma to the edge of the fiscal cliff.

Remember, it was as cloistered group from the governor’s office and the legislature who wrote the budget at the last-minute in May. It was this small group that built the budget based on revenue projections that weren’t realistic in the first place. They plugged holes with one-time funds. They did nothing to address the predictable, preventable position we’re in now.

 

I would think a private sector CFO would be fired for striking out that egregiously.

Far from being fired as a result of his performance as budget director, Mr. Doerflinger continues to be the recipient of large annual pay increases since his hiring in June 2011.

Shortly after Rick and I posted our #GiveItBackOK blogs last night, one of his readers added the following comment:

Here are some facts about Mr. Doerflinger’s pay. It would appear to me he has already taken his tax cut, and that of several thousand teachers.

 

2015 Total Pay $159,040.94
2014 Total Pay $137,465.77
2013 Total Pay $108,249.94
2012 Total Pay $104,130.53
Data source: http://ok.gov/okaa/

Crunching a few numbers, it appears that Doerflinger has been able to negotiate an average salary increase of 17.5% a year. If you look only at the past two years, it is closer to 24% a year.

In fairness, I realize that Mr. Doerflinger has been given additional responsibilities in the past few years. He currently serves at the Director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) and also on the Governor’s Cabinet as the Secretary of Finance, Administration, and Information Technology.

As the Director of OMES, Doerflinger manages a department of 1,509 employees with an operational budget of 70 million dollars. In short, this is a big job with lots of responsibility.

But Doerflinger also has a lot of good help.

According to the Oklahoma Watch, Doerflinger’s staff includes 101 employees earning more than $75,000 a year, with 21 of them earning in excess of six figures, including Doerflinger’s current salary of $169,558.

You can find out some other interesting information about Mr. Doerflinger with a simple Google search, but that’s beyond the scope of why I am writing this today.

Mr. Doerflinger has been on the job for over four years. In that time, he has seen his pay increase by over $65,000. So, I suppose my question is: what has he done to deserve it?

I get frustrated when lawmakers and government officials preach to educators about the importance of accountability while continuing to blame outside factors for their own failures.

In the same December press conference, Doerflinger reiterated:

I’ve been talking for years about the structural problems the state faces. Now, we find ourselves in a very challenging situation. Panicking about the situation is not productive. We need to use this as an opportunity to do the things we otherwise might not have the will to do.

Talk is cheap, Mr. Doerflinger. You have been behind the wheel of the Oklahoma budgeting process for the past four years. If you cannot get the job done, maybe it is time to pass the keys to someone else.

Just make sure they haven’t been drinking.

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18 thoughts on “The Oklahoma Budget Crisis Hasn’t Hurt Everyone.

  1. Mary

    Great article! As someone who used to live in Oklahoma, I still care a great deal about that state. It always boggled my mind how individuals who continue to make 6 figures want the citizens to trust them when it comes to discussing budget cuts.

    1. Jo

      Agree it’s much easier to “tighten your belt” when you make 170K rather than the 44K the average teacher in OK makes. I left the state as a teacher in 1995 and received a 15K pay raise to be a teacher in another state. Sad state of affairs in my home state. I am disappointed that the children of Oklahoma are the losers in this situation.

  2. Joe Eddins

    Oklahoma Senate race , Dossett Dem. Vs McLain Rep. McLain.

    McLain favors elimination of the state income tax. Todays Tulsa World.

    He, if elected,like our current elected leaders, can be expected to keep their campaign promises.

  3. Vanessa Bevel

    I am a State Employee and this article makes me sick. I work for Office of Juvenile Affairs/Juvenile Services Unit.
    They have cut services to our youth so much they hardly have anything to benefit from while they are in our custody. How can they be a better youth when they leave OJA when services have been cut so bad. And they have closed so many facilities it is very hard to find a place to put them when they have broken the law.
    I have not received a raise in over 8 years.
    I do not think Mr. Doerflinger is doing a very good job all he cares about is himself and his increase in his salary.

  4. Bill

    We live in a state where the highest paid public employees are football coaches. And not in low six-figure salaries, but high six figures and even seven. Doerflinger looks underpaid by comparison. But, no one wants to take on the salaries of our state university football coaches or those of coaches in the large K12 districts where sports is king. Even at the lower levels, sports never go without money, and they never do fundraisers–because money is always found for them.When, if ever, Oklahoma starts to think of math, science, English and history as important as having a good football team, then we’ll see change. I expect to be either long retired or in the grave when that day comes. There are a lot of things working against Oklahoma, but our priorities do the most to keep us a small, poor state.

    1. Coach B

      You figured it out my friend. Football is the debil Billy!!! Football coaches are the reason our state is in the condition it is. Give me a break, I have coached football in our state for over 20 years at a small high school. Every time something like this happens someone starts throwing stones. You know Bill many football programs help to fund other programs. If football wasn’t such a positive in young men’s lives I would not be a part of it. Take it from me, most football coaches in our state could make just as much or more driving a bus and with far less stress and criticism. Take my word on that b/c I did it for three years.

  5. Kathy

    Following Brownback’s lead! Crash the state, do away with state income tax, then increase sales tax. The poor and middle class pay on all their income because they spend all they make to live. The rich pay a small portion because well, they don’t spent all they make to live. Regressive tax hurts everyone but the wealthy!

  6. Marci

    Thank you for this article. Would also love to see someone discuss the million and a half dollars paid out to our legislators last year for travel expenses. Where the heck did these people go on our dime? It’s obvious they’re not driving down our deteriorating highways visiting our dwindling communities. We should all ask ourselves – are we better off now than we were before these yahoos took office? The answer is pretty obvious. We must vote for education!

  7. Betsy Hormel

    Even when the economy was “good”, do you think Oklahoma state employees reaped any of the benefit? No! There haven’t been pay raises in 10 YEARS! If my belt gets any tighter, my stomach will touch my spine! We are all doing more with NOTHING, and you don’t see us giving ourselves a ridiculous raise.

  8. Robert Farrill Jr.

    Since the first time Doerflinger inflicted himself on the people of Oklahoma, he has been a mystery to me. An Organizational Leadership Degree from Southern Nazerene University, barely two years as Tulsa’s City Auditor (an office for which he did/does not hold the proper degree nor professional certification), and his so-called business entrepreneurial background which amounts to a small store in Catoosa and some home businesses operated by himself and his ex-wife (for example PDA Management where he claims he was CEO but good luck finding anything about that “company”), are not and were not sufficient experience to warrent such an important job in Oklahoma State government. It is little wonder that Oklahoma’s finances are in such a shambles when incompetent unqualified people are put in charge of them.

  9. Robert Farrill Jr.

    Sorry instead of PDA, I should have written PLD Management as the name of the mysterious company he claims qualifies him as an entrepeneur and successful businessman.

  10. CJ

    A simple Google search of P. Doerflinger shows this account of his arrest for being behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Of course, the results of his breath test were not released, nor did Fallin have any comment: http://newsok.com/article/5387362 .

    Another of the inappropriate but typical aspects of Fallin’s oligarchist puppet regime is that her appointee for Secretary of Finance is not a CPA, nor does he have a degree in accounting or finance.

    In my opinion, most of what is written in Oklahoma papers about what the R party has done and is doing regarding taxation, support of state infrastructure and especially regarding public schools is gross understatement. Their entire platform and attitude is nothing short of travesty. We know from history that their folly will eventual implode on them or their legacies. Meanwhile, the majority of our society suffers the effects of their elitist policies in one manner or another, or several. Getting the majority of Oklahoma voters to see the light and quit voting against themselves is the challenge.

  11. Nancy

    All State Employees deserve a pay raise, in our department we haven’t had a raise in over 6 years. They pick and choose who gets what. This is not fair, insurance and cost of living have tremendously increased. We have very good staff but some are having to look else where for better pay. Step up and treat state employees the same way as the State Capital, Senators, Legislatures. We need to be treated fairly, as we are very capable and dependable employees that have been at our jobs for a long time.

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