The Oklahoma Budget Crisis Hasn’t Hurt Everyone.

By January 10, 2016 Uncategorized 18 Comments

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:

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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