Oklahoma is now a facing four-percent cut across the board to all state agencies.
That means an additional $235 million in cuts to programs like education and the corrections department. And with several months still left in the fiscal year, this might not be the last of the cuts.
“I don’t think anybody knows,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, “I mean the experts don’t know. Our projections for this month were 19% off estimates. So I don’t think anybody really knows.”
What this means is cuts in services; longer wait times to get those remaining services; and likely some state jobs on the chopping block.
“You see Devon and major downtown Oklahoma City corporations laying off employees. Well, that’s something the state government is going to have to look at also.” Bingman said.
Democrats say the situation is so dire, especially for education and public safety, that the state needs to dip into the $385-million rainy day fund.
“It’s time for the legislative leaders who helped create this problem to step up and fix that problem by immediately tapping into the rainy day find so that schools don’t have to cut teachers and increase class size,” said Representative Scott Inman (D) House Minority Leader.
Republicans say, with so much uncertainty about next year’s budget, they aren’t even considering tapping the rainy day fund. At least, not yet.
“We are not looking at any supplements for the ’16 budget.,” Representative Earl Sears (R) Appropriations and Budget Chair said, “In the revenue failure that we’re going through right now. Not gonna say it couldn’t happen but right now, to answer your question, we are not discussing supplements for ‘16”.
The State Department of Education did release a statement calling the cuts “Brutal” and “Heartbreaking”, and saying that they will lead some schools to going to a four day school week to save money.