Budget Picture Could Have Been “Much, Much Worse”

OPEA members responded to a Call to Action last week, generating thousands of emails and phone calls to legislative leaders. As a result of OPEA member’s efforts, the state budget had far fewer cuts than was originally expected.

“We were bracing for the worst,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “While a 7 percent cut isn’t great, we could have been hit a lot harder. At this point it looks as if the bigger agencies like Transportation, Corrections and the Department of Human Services survived in-tact, or actually received a modest increase. Any cuts to those agencies would certainly have been detrimental to the citizens of Oklahoma.”

State lawmakers reached a budget agreement Friday, just one week before the end of the session. Original projections showed agency cuts between 7 and 9 percent, with reductions in force (RIFS) and furloughs a very real possibility.

OPEA urged its members to begin contacting their legislators and the Governor, asking them to spare their jobs.

“Our Call to Action resulted in more than a thousand phone calls and emails to the Capitol in just a few hours,” Zearley said. “OPEA members turned up the heat on legislators, and they responded favorably.

“We were told that cuts would be minimal, and so far it looks like we have protected our state employee’s jobs. And what’s more, it looks as if core services to our fellow Oklahomans will be spared as well.

“In a year that could have been much, much worse, we survived in pretty good shape. We didn’t get the pay increase we so desperately need, but we managed to keep our jobs and in today’s economic climate, that is fantastic news,” Zearley said.

Several key agencies saw no cuts or even modest increases in their budgets:

Department of Corrections: $0 or 0.0% change
Department of Human Services: $9,395,077 or -1.7 decrease
Department of Transportation: $1,149,866 or 0.6 % increase
Department of Veterans Affairs $0 or 0.0% change

“OPEA will continue to work with the administrative teams of agencies that saw more severe cuts,” said Zearley. “These agencies will have to be very careful in spending through the next fiscal year.”

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