CapitolBeatOK Staff Report
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association accused proponents of State Question 744 of not telling the devastating effect the measure would have on core government services.
“The S.Q. 744 commercials claim that eliminating politician perks and tax credits would pay for the additional $1.7 billion needed to fund the proposal,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “Eliminating the entire legislative budget would only save $10 million and tax credits and exemptions that are large enough to fund S.Q. 744 are important to working families. The only possible funding sources are thousands in additional taxes.”
“The truth is the proponents of SQ 744 don’t have a funding source,” continued Zearley. “Cuts needed to fund this draconian measure would put inmates on the street, close facilities for the disabled and mentally ill, and decimate funding for roads and bridges.”
Zearley contends that State Question 744 will be devastating to critical state services, cutting budgets in agencies by approximately 20 percent, in addition to the budget cuts of the recent recession.
In testimony before legislative committees over the last year, budget experts detailed what they believe will happen if S.Q. 744 becomes law:
• Additional taxes of $1200 per family would be necessary to fund SQ 744.
• Positions at DHS would be eliminated, cutting workers who provide food stamps and health care to the working poor. Child welfare and adult protective services workers would be cut, leaving Oklahoma’s must vulnerable citizens unprotected.
• At least $343 million in federal matching dollars for Medicaid to care for seniors, children and other ailing Oklahomans will be lost.
• As many as nine prisons will be closed and 8,400 criminals will be released early.
• The Health Department would lose staff to monitor food safety and nursing home inspections.
• State parks would be closed.
• $192 million will be cut from the state's highway budget in the first year SQ 744 becomes law, derailing the repair of thousands of crumbling bridges and deteriorating highways.
• The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services would be forced to close more treatment beds and outpatient programs.
• Already spiraling tuition hikes will skyrocket, making college unattainable for thousands of Oklahoma's sons and daughters.
“State Question 744 would be devastating to state government and services critical to the lives of all Oklahomans,” concluded Zearley. “There is no magic funding source or fund only cuts to state agencies already challenged with the economic downturn.”