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“We can’t keep cutting from nothing,” Corrections officials concerned about latest budget cuts

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OKLAHOMA CITY – After officials announced that deeper cuts were needed to avoid a further revenue failure, agency leaders across Oklahoma are speaking out about what the cuts mean for their employees.

On Thursday, State Treasurer Ken Miller announced that February’s revenue is down by almost $90 million compared to last year’s numbers, or more than 10 percent.

Last month, Gov. Mary Fallin said that most state agencies and departments would be cut by three percent.

Following Thursday’s announcement, state officials said an additional four percent cut would be needed.

Public schools alone will have nearly $110 million cut from their budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

According to state documents, the Department of Corrections is facing a $27.5 million cut and the Health Care Authority will lose $63.8 million in funding.

“With the announcement today of an additional 4 percent cut to the Department of corrections, we are looking at more than a $27.5 million reduction,” said Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh. “The situation is becoming dire as we look for more areas to cut. Again, furloughs will be a last resort. However, we have frozen all purchases, aside from the bare essentials like food and clothing and we have stopped hiring in critical positions.

“We are in a dangerous situation and cutting deeper into the agency’s budget is a serious risk to public safety and the safety of the men and women who go to work on the prison yards every day.”

Agency officials say they will be asking the state for supplemental funding, which will equal out  to about $38.7 million, to help the department get through the end of the fiscal year.

“As of today, our state prison population is at 123 percent, we have converted all of the available day rooms, gymnasiums and most places offering treatment to housing areas,” said Corrections Board Chairman Kevin Gross. “We can’t keep cutting from nothing. We are down to the bare minimum and are setting ourselves up for something to happen.”