It’s raining money in Oklahoma! From the COVID-19 federal relief funds for the state, counties, and cities, more than $6.34 billion poured into Oklahoma in 2020. Another $10.6 billion went to businesses and individuals through the Paycheck Protection Program and individual direct stimulus checks.
The Biden – Pelosi – Schumer COVID-19 2021 boondoggle of $1.9 Trillion has another $6.42 billion set aside to send our way in the form of federal grants, and $4.88 billion coming in the form of individual direct $1,400 stimulus checks. The state already has a budget surplus because of last year’s massive stimulus dollars, so what do we do with the current surplus of unsustainable revenue and these new dollars?
After taking care of testing, tracing and vaccine costs, let’s focus on jobs and high paying jobs at that. Since we are dealing with a huge pile of money, I hope state leaders make one-time expense decisions on only projects that will help us close the gap on matching the national average of $62,800 of household income. For example:
1. Invest a significant sum in the Governor’s Quick-Action Closing Fund to help Oklahoma compete with states across the country for large job deals.
2. Launch a new “Oklahoma Remote” program modeled after the very successful Tulsa Remote Program which has had a 92% retention rate with average pay of $96,000 per year.
3. Allocate enough dollars for workforce development to recruit, train and deploy desperately needed high skilled professionals like doctors, physician assistants, nurses, engineers, digital technology experts and research experts.
4. Use a sufficient amount of the federal funds to extend broadband to every area of the state.
I'd hate to see what may happen to our economy when all this borrowed money plays out and interest rates have been pushed higher, but in the meantime, we must strike quickly and efficiently to produce jobs we know will stay in demand. And after that, we should just say no to the rest of the available money which can be likened to a narcotic stimulant that we could get hooked on. It will run out, and the withdrawal affects in the long run could be terrible unless we are wise and prudent in the short run.