Behavioral health advocates rally in support of bill aimed to tackle state budget crisis; oil lobbyists counter

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OKLAHOMA CITY – As the Oklahoma House voted on a budget Wednesday, the Oklahoma Behavioral Health Association hosted a rally in support of HB 1054.

Advocates at the capitol urged lawmakers to vote ‘yes’ in an effort to not only fill a void in the budget but to also preserve funding for agencies like the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services and the Health Care Authority.

“We are experiencing a loss of services,” said Joy Sloan with Green Country Behavioral Health. “We have had services cut repeatedly for the last six years. We’ve had case management that’s been cut. We’ve had rehab services been cut. Right now, we’re on the verge of cutting therapy services.”

The bill also included a tax on cigarettes as well as fuel, low-point beer and a 4 percent gross production tax on big oil and gas.

Oil and gas lobbyists said they were hoping the bill would fail.

“It’s rigs up in the air operating is what drives Oklahoma economy, not gross production tax,” said Tim Wigley with the OIPA. “So, we just think it would be a bad move to put a lot of capital and jobs at risk if they once again try to raise gross production tax. In this particular bill, it would double it.”

It failed on the Oklahoma House floor with a vote of 71-27.

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