Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement in response to the state budget deal announced by lawmakers:
Lawmakers have not risen to the challenge of a historic budget shortfall. While this budget deal may prevent further cuts to common education and Soonercare, it slashes other vital services like higher education, the Health Department, Public Safety, environmental protection, Veterans Affairs, and the arts. The result is likely to be large tuition increases and fewer course offerings in higher education, shuttered county Health Departments and epidemic prevention efforts, dwindling emergency responders, and even larger gaps in mental health treatment for veterans.
The budget makes these dire cuts even though lawmakers have left hundreds of millions on the table by not stopping a reckless tax cut that was never supposed to happen in these conditions, using far less than the full available 3/8ths of the Rainy Day Fund, failing to increase the cigarette tax, and refusing available federal funds to save rural hospitals. The secretive process and last-minute unveiling of the budget has also already forced schools to lay off teachers and left vulnerable seniors and other Soonercare patients and providers facing months of extreme anxiety.
Lawmakers should show the courage to reject this budget deal and come back with a better plan to address this emergency, even if it requires going into special session.