“We are doing a disservice to our children,” Organization criticizing House budget vote
OKLAHOMA CITY — After the Oklahoma House of Representatives approved a measure that calls for budget cuts to several state agencies, organizations across the state are already speaking out about the vote.
House Bill 1019 includes $60 million worth of cuts across various state agencies while also using millions in Rainy Day funds, carryover cash, and revolving money. It also includes a recently passed measure to raise the gross production tax (‘GPT’) on legacy wells.
The agencies that would have received $215 million from the cigarette fee, which was deemed unconstitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, are also being hit with cuts.
Those agencies include the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Those three agencies are now facing cuts between $4 and $15 million.
The bill also includes cuts to various agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Ethics Commission, House of Representatives and the Senate. All of these agencies face cuts between 2.5% and 2.7% under this proposal. The Department of Education, Election Board, and the Department of Corrections would be among those facing no cuts.
“Jobs will not stay, because there will be no quality of life, where we are 50th in teacher pay… 50th in educational outcomes,” Rep. Leslie Osborn said.
“I personally cannot, in good conscious, leave cash in the bank, and look at my constituents and tell them I’m canceling their adult daycare, I’m canceling their advantage waiver services, I’m canceling their in home services,” Rep. Jon Echols said.
On Wednesday afternoon, the House passed HB 1019 by a vote of 56 to 38. The bill now heads to the Senate.
However, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration released the following statement, criticizing the vote:
“Two months ago we entered the special session with optimism that the legislature would put aside partisan bickering and demonstrate vision for Oklahoma’s future by resolving the budget shortages we face today and creating a long-term financial plan for the future. Instead, lawmakers have delivered more of the same. The budget plan approved by the House of Representatives today is a squandered opportunity to follow through on promises to Oklahoma voters to provide a long-overdue teacher pay raise and eliminate an over reliance on one-time money. Despite having the option of passing comprehensive revenue measures to responsibly balance the budget and shore up funding for valuable core services, lawmakers are turning once again to cash and cuts to fill the hole. While this plan mostly fills the massive shortfalls facing health and social services agencies, the lack of vision for the future will be felt across all areas of Oklahoma’s public services.
We’re thankful to the 108 legislators who courageously put aside partisan politics and voted for a grand bargain revenue measure. While there are no additional cuts to common education, this back-up plan leaves us right where we were at the end of the regular session, with no meaningful fix for the structural imbalance or teacher shortage in sight. We are doing a disservice to our children and our state by continuing to kick the can down the road. CCOSA members will continue to fight for a long-term funding solution for public education, including a teacher pay raise, and the restoration of funding to support our state’s most vulnerable citizens.”