Oklahoma agency workers say budget cuts hurt state citizens

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Oklahoma Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma state workers say ongoing budget cuts at state agencies hurt services and the citizens they serve.

About 20 state employees implored state lawmakers Tuesday to adopt a series of revenue-generating measures to avoid further cuts to state agency budgets.

Lawmakers are grappling with how to close a projected $1.3 billion hole in the state budget for next year due in part to declining energy prices. And state officials have ordered agencies to reduce their budgets for the current year due to revenue failure.

Mike Rogers, a Unit Manager at the James Crabtree Correctional Center in Helena, said he is frustrated by the lack of action on the part of the Oklahoma Legislature.

“I know the legislators, a couple of them asked me, well what do you suggest? What are the solutions? You know what, I didn’t run for office. I didn’t voluntarily run for office and get elected. They did.  It’s their responsibility, and all I’m asking them to do is sit down, look at possible solutions other than just furloughing state employees,” Rogers said.

Sterling Zearley, executive director of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, said additional cuts to state agency budgets will directly affect programs that serve the most vulnerable Oklahomans.

Zearley called for lawmakers to modernize the state tax code, raise the tobacco tax and eliminate unproductive tax credits.