State officials, Thursday, told Oklahoma’s state agencies to submit plans to cut their 2016 budgets another four percent due to another revenue shortfall. This cut is on top of a three percent reduction earlier this fiscal year. The Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) believes the state’s budget crisis will result in state agencies eliminating or reducing the services they provide. The recent reduction includes cuts in funds for Oklahoma’s roads and bridges as well as all other state agencies, common education and higher education.
“Due to continued reductions, Oklahoma is at a crisis point where many Oklahomans will be directly impacted by the cuts,” said Sterling Zearley, OPEA executive director. Our state agencies have been told to cut another four percent yet for many the only way to do that is to halt services that our citizens rely on.”
“Our prisons are going to be even more dangerous when Department of Corrections reduces staff. There will be fewer nurses’ aides caring for veterans in our centers. DHS workers will have higher caseloads as they cut or furlough employees, he said. “Unfortunately, these cuts are in every agency and the services they provide.”
The recent budget reductions come after years of cost cutting by state agencies to account for fewer dollars in their appropriation. Oklahoma’s Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said that these cuts could be “right through the bone”.
“We have an opportunity for Oklahoma’s leaders to come forward and work to improve revenue and save state services for our citizens and business community” Zearley said. “If we keep going like this, there won’t be any services left for anyone. It is time for the House and Senate to step up.”
“Usually, the state budget discussions don’t begin until April but we must have those discussions now and they must include ways to improve revenue, “he said. “In this crisis, OPEA is concerned about the stress on our state employees who continue to serve our state and we are anxious about our state’s future.”