A 2017 budget proposal that protects some public sectors while deepening cuts to others is short sighted, according to the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA). Legislative leaders have discussed a budget scenario that limits additional cuts to public education despite a predicted budget deficit of $1.3 billion. OPEA says that additional cuts to state agencies and core services would be necessary if education funding is preserved without additional revenue.
“The services provided by state agencies and their employees are crucial to our citizens, families and Oklahoma’s economy, “ said Sterling Zearley, OPEA executive director. “Limiting education cuts without raising revenue would require deeper cuts to services provided to Oklahomans at all walks of life.”
“Public education is crucial to Oklahoma but so are services that protect and support our seniors and veterans, help our state’s business infrastructure, keep us healthy and care for of our most vulnerable citizens,” he said. “If state services are cut to protect education funding, students who rely on those services will suffer at home and in the classroom.”
“Oklahoma’s lawmakers must consider raising revenue to prevent deeper cuts to state services and education, “Zearley said. “If we’re concerned about how to educate our children, we need to be equally concerned about how to keep them healthy, safe and secure. We have to find a way to fully fund both education and services. That means raising revenue.”
Many state agencies have already taken a seven percent reduction in funding this fiscal year and are possibly in line for more cuts before the end of the fiscal year on June 31, 2016. This year’s state revenue has not kept pace with the approved state budget This shortfall has resulted in program cuts.
“There is nothing on the horizon that indicates that we are going to climb out of this crisis unless we find a way to increase the amount of money coming. During the past several years, state agencies have made numerous administrative cuts and are now they are looking at ways to reduce core services with as little impact as possible, “ he said. “The cuts that agencies will have to make to balance their 2017 budget will directly affect children, seniors, veterans and others who rely on state services.”