As the pace of Oklahoma state budget discussions picks up, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Tom Ivester says that he and fellow caucus members intend to back Gov. Mary Fallin in holding state budget cuts between three and five percent.
Republican legislative leaders have said agencies could face cuts of 7 percent when the 2012 fiscal year begins July 1. Ivester contends cuts of that size would be devastating to state services.
“When you consider that many state agencies have already endured cuts of 15 to 20 percent in the last two years, it should be obvious that we’re way beyond cutting fat — we’re now cutting into the bone and muscle of core services at this point,” said Ivester, a Sayre Democrat.
“Governor Fallin’s proposed budget made it possible to make smaller cuts and protect core services. We stand ready to support those efforts.”
Sen. Ivester made the comments in a press release sent to CapitolBeatOK Tuesday afternoon.
In her executive budget, Fallin outlined plans to hold most agency cuts to the 5% range, with priorities like public schools, Higher Education and Health Care being held to around 3%.
However, the governor’s proposed efficiencies to be gained from Information Technology (IT) changes, centralization of some payroll functions and other ideas have not advanced to her desk yet.
Monday, in response to questions from several news organizations, including CapitolBeatOK, Governor Fallin said budget discussions were going well but tht there remained some distance between her position and that of legislative leaders. As CapitolBeatOK reporter,
Fallin still wants to limit agency budget cuts in the 3 to 5 percent range, whereas legislators are looking at cuts of as much as 7 percent.
Sen. Ivester said, “It’s surprising the governor doesn’t seem to be getting much support from her own party, even though it means protecting some of the states most important services, including education and public safety.
“Senate Democrats stand ready to support Governor Fallin in any way we can, including voting to sustain a veto of any bill containing larger cuts than her proposed budget. Failing to stop further erosion of core services will further diminish the quality of life for Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens.”