Bad Brew (Guest Post: Erin Taylor)

trashcan-punchErin Taylor, PhD is a mother to five and a disability advocate living in Oklahoma City. Her previous guest post, “What I Didn’t Get From My Tax Cut,” ran in March.

Like many advocates, I’m still recovering from the Capitol last week where our elected officials passed a trash can punch of a budget. It reeks of classism and party dogma. As an Oklahoma mother who sends my children to public school and colleges, uses child support, and holds Medicaid (TEFRA) on my child with a developmental disability, our family will be paying the price.

I also work on behalf of some of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable – adults with intellectual disabilities and families coming to terms with their child’s developmental disability. Oklahomans with developmental disabilities and chronic medical conditions are vulnerable because of the choices we make as a state to not fund adequate supports, whether they be family-based, caretaking, medical, therapeutic or disability-oriented. The greatest challenge facing these Oklahomans is not the diagnosis but the lack of services and financial resources. If we insisted that our state human services, mental health, and Medicaid agencies were humanely funded, we’d see a sharp decline in the number of Oklahomans we classify as vulnerable. Instead, we’d have viable Oklahomans, making use of their supports, so they can exist as tax-paying, financially secure citizens.

The Legislature did pass a minor mercy through SB 694 which, in part, held harmless waiver programs in Developmental Disability Services (DDS).  This affords a sigh of relief for families who rely on this funding to support a loved one, but it in no way alleviates the wait for the 7200+ families on the DDS Waiting List.  More importantly, OKDHS will have to cut programs and staffing in other sectors because the Legislature did not budget the agency more money – it simply told them they had to spend a considerable portion of their funds solely toward Child Welfare and DDS.

“If we insisted that our state human services, mental health, and Medicaid agencies were humanely funded, we’d see a sharp decline in the number of Oklahomans we classify as vulnerable. Instead, we’d have viable Oklahomans, making use of their supports, so they can exist as tax-paying, financially secure citizens.”

This budget erodes the already tenuous finances for hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma families. OKDHS must halt new applications for subsidized child care.  Child Support Enforcement, Adult Protective Services, Foster Care and Aging Services will see deep cuts. Thousands of OKDHS employees, who chose emotionally toiling work with lackluster salaries, will leave the agency, whether through voluntary buy-outs or layoffs.

Everyone loses in this budget – education, mental health, first responders, roads, disability services, medical providers, health departments, the arts. Oklahomans lose. And in the coming months, people will complain on social media about how this impacts their lives.  My response will be, “What did you say to your legislator every week?”  You must participate in government before you have the right to complain you got screwed over by it. Like any relationship, you must show up and speak up to have your input matter.  This means sending an email, making a call, or better yet, making the time to meet with your legislator any time during the year.  As I’ve said before, we are not an interruption in a legislator’s work, we are the purpose of their work.

We can blame our elected officials for the budget sinkhole, but it falls back on us.  We put them there. We allowed them to remain there.  We didn’t make them answerable to us.  And we are either the intentional force behind their choices or the Oklahomans who don’t count.

The opinions stated above are not necessarily those of OK Policy, its staff, or its board. This blog is a venue to help promote the discussion of ideas from various points of view and we invite your comments and contributions. To see our guidelines for blog submissions, click here

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

3 thoughts on “Bad Brew (Guest Post: Erin Taylor)

  1. You make a good case for active, Public Citizens. Compared to grass roots organizing and lobbying of our elected officials, the digital world of Entertainment, and Infotainment that passes as News is far more “exciting.” But, I am glad to see this coalition of educators running to unseat many of these libertarian Republican elected officials. It’s about time, huh?

    In all fairness to the Oklahoma voters who put these self-serving “small government” advocates into office — Who would have guessed they would continue hundreds of millions in tax breaks and subsidies for the largest corporations in the state? And when did any of them, from the Governor on down, ever reveal that “public schools and parks are NOT core government services?”

    I believe many of them rode into office on a smile and a hand shake, wearing their religion on their sleeve, knowing full well what they intended to do, and whom they intended to serve. They were misleading and deceptive in their campaigns for office, or many of them never would have been elected.

  2. I bought your blog and the comments above. The problem is finding good people to run and to serve. It is our job to get to know the people running & who’s in office. And be sure they what we value. We also need to work toward the future 20 years and more ahead. No shortsighted legislators or one topic legislators needed.

  3. Folks we have an election coming up in November. I urge all of us to get out and vote all incumbents out of office, no matter who or how long they have been in office. WE MUST send a message that backroom deals and protecting energy companies is not what government is about. If we citizens do not stand up to these highly paid servants of oil and gas will further erode our state. We elected them and pay them, lets fire them.

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