The following information has been sent to each state senator and each representative. OPEA staff members have also hand-delivered copies to key lawmakers so they know how our members feel.
OPEA believes a budget agreement resulting in additional cuts to state agencies will cause additional state employee layoffs, thus jeopardizing services. Fewer employees mean fewer services available to some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens as well as families and communities in need.
DHS may be forced to reduce services that help keep people out of nursing homes or supports people with intellectual disabilities. They may have to reduce oversight of child care facilities and reduce child care payments for low-income working families. They are also considering reductions in Child Welfare Services while trying to implement the Pinnacle Plan.
Future DHS cuts are in addition to administrative and service reductions previously made. They have 1,200 fewer non-child welfare staff than before and are planning to accept more voluntary buy outs. These staff reductions come at a time when the need for their safety net services is growing.
The Department of Veterans affairs may have to close one of their veterans’ centers if adequate funding is not received. This would mean that some of Oklahoma’s heroes would have to move from their center to a new one across the state. A community whose center was closed would also lose the economic benefits of its presence.
Despite Oklahoma’s growing need for mental health services, access to those services will be further restricted if the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has to make more cuts in addition to the $22.8 million already made this year. Children and adults needing therapy for behavioral health issues or substance abuse would not receive much needed care. The additional strain placed on families, schools, workplaces, social safety net and criminal justice system would be considerable.
Department of Corrections facilitates are at 122 percent capacity and DOC administrators have already been forced to implement a hiring freeze, causing unsafe staffing levels to worsen.. While recent laws were signed implementing justice reform, it will be months, if not years, before those laws help reduce the prison census. If DOC does not get sufficient funding, they will be forced to make additional reductions, placing the safety of our communities, prison staff and offenders at increased risk.
All state agencies serving your constituents will be forced to cut services if they have to make additional budget reductions. While there may still be some money-saving efficiencies to be found in state agencies, the vast majority of reductions would be in the form of reduced or eliminated services.
Throughout this year’s session, OPEA has been consistent in saying Oklahoma must not balance the budget by further reducing core services. In recent years, agencies and their employees have done a remarkable job providing services despite shrinking budgets. We respectfully say again; “Do not reduce appropriations to state agencies to balance the FY2017 budget”.
We must increase revenue in FY2017, Here are proposals OPEA believes Oklahoma must implement to make up for the shortfall are
Recurring Revenue Options
1. Suspend the 2016 income tax cut;
2. End the double-deduction for state income taxes;
3. Increase the cigarette tax;
4. Enact HB 2531, regarding Internet sales taxes;
5. Follow Governor Fallin’s call for sales tax modernization;
6. Increase the fuel tax;
7. Reduce tax breaks for gross production;
8. Curb subsidies for wind production;
9. Assess tax on wind energy production;
10. Transfer agency revolving funds.
One-Time Revenue Options
1. Tap the rainy day fund;
2. Defer increases to ROADS Fund;
3. Issue bonds for transportation projects;
4. Impose a moratorium on tax credits.
OPEA cannot overstate its belief that increasing state revenue is the only viable option ensure that further reductions do not decimate core services in FY2017.
At some point during the next month, legislators will be asked to consider a 2017 budget bill and one is signed, OPEA members will continue to reinforce our positions that you, as legislators, must raise revenue and not cut services. This has been our stance since the early days of the session and we will continue to advocate for this position until a budget is signed in to law.
In the past, OPEA has supported the re-election efforts of legislators who champion the cause of state employees with their floor and committee votes. As we approach an unprecedented election cycle, OPEA will lend our support to legislative who support state employees and the services they provide. We will measure this by how lawmakers vote on the upcoming budget agreement.
OPEA will stand with candidates who vote for a budget agreement that provides for increased revenue and protects state agencies from further staff and service cuts