Budget deal (2): Social service agencies shut out of additional funding, again

For the second time in less than a month, the Governor and legislative leaders have announced an agreement on how to address the huge shortfalls in this year’s budget caused by declining revenue collections. This second agreement is not much different than the initial January agreement: monthly across-the-board cuts of ten percent of allocations from the General Revenue Fund will continue for the rest of the year, with the extent of cuts to some agencies mitigated by additional funds. This “addendum” to the January deal involves two main components:

  • First, it specifies that 3/8ths of the state’s Rainy Day Fund, or $223.5 million, will be used to fill part of the current year shortfall. That still leaves a gap, according to my calculations,  of $235.5 million.  The press release states that the remaining shortfall will be filled “with other state funds and federal stimulus dollars”. The Legislature has begun considering a number of supplemental funding bills that will shed more light on which additional revenues will be tapped;
  • Second, in addition to the additional dollars announced in January for Common Education ($54 million plus $50 million to make up for part of the $109 million projected shortfall in the HB 1017 Fund); Higher Education ($25.6 million), the Health Care Authority ($33 milion) and Corrections ($7.2 million), additional funds are being directed to the Department of Public Safety ($ 3 million) and Department of Central Services ($300,000).The House of Representatives immediately issued a press release announcing that the additional dollars for the Department of Public Safety would suffice to avert furloughs for state troopers that had been scheduled to begin in March.

Left unstated in the press releases are the priorities that again failed to make the cut for additional dollars.   The work that the state troopers do in protecting public safety on our highways is extremely important.  But what about the at-risk youth whose gang intervention and prevention programs in Tulsa and Oklahoma City have been eliminated? What about the children with mental health issues who can no longer be treated because the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services has cut 40 children’s inpatient beds in Norman? Or the seniors who are no longer being served daily hot meals because of the $7.2 million in cuts to senior nutrition programs? Or the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault who can no longer receive counseling and education and prevention programs because of cuts? With new revenues off the table, our elected leaders are facing brutal choices in deciding which vital programs and services to rescue and which to let die. But what does it say about our priorities as a state when programs serving the most vulnerable women, children and seniors have, once again, been left behind?


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.

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