Oklahoma Highway Patrol lifting mileage restriction after budget agreement
OKLAHOMA CITY – After Gov. Fallin signed a $6.8 billion budget earlier this week, several core state agencies breathed a sigh of relief.
After learning about a nearly $900 million budget shortfall, the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety was bracing for drastic cuts.
In March, lawmakers asked each state agency to think about how it would handle a nearly 15 percent budget reduction, should it come to that.
“We have to protect the public, and we have to protect the citizens we serve and we have to look after the men and women of our organization and their families that we’re trying to perform these missions with us,” OHP Chief Ricky Adams told NewsChannel 4 in March. “If we would have to absorb a 15 percent budget cut, we have to ask ourselves internally: ‘Which of these missions can we no longer do?'”
As a result of past budget cuts, troopers were restricted to driving 100 miles per shift. Officials say that the mileage restriction has hindered their ability to perform their duties and they were preparing for an even worse situation.
They point to the takedown of fugitive Michael Vance, who sparked a statewide manhunt in October, after police said he killed two people, shot two police officers and several others.
“He was minutes – literally minutes – away from slipping outside of the perimeter and being away to probably continue his rampage,” Adams said. “I believe he probably would have shot somebody else during a traffic stop, robbed another vehicle and continued to pillage [with a decreased budget].”
On Wednesday, Gov. Fallin signed a budget bill that minimized cuts to core services.
“Developing a budget in this difficult fiscal and political climate is never easy,” said Fallin. “This plan keeps our government from shutting down and, despite challenging circumstances, funds our core mission services. We worked hard to protect key core services – common education, health and human services and public safety. This budget minimizes cuts and puts some recurring revenue on the table. It repeals certain exemptions in the sales tax code.
As a result, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation announced that it is lifting the statewide trooper mileage restriction immediately.
“With 26 percent of an already strained workforce considering retirement, furloughs would have been devastating to our ranks,” Adams said. “I also want to extend my genuine gratitude to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority for funding the 64th OHP Academy in 2016 and now the 65th OHP Academy in 2018. Without this partnership, our losses though retirements, injury, and deaths would be completely demoralizing.”