Governor Mary Fallin addressed the State of the State this week and released the proposed 2015 executive budget calling for cuts to most state agencies as a result of the $170 million revenue shortfall. What does this mean for Oklahoma’s kids?
The good news: the Governor has proposed financial increases for the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Education. The $36 million in DHS funding will result in 75% funding of the Pinnacle Plan, which resulted from a class action settlement against DHS requiring the agency to make improvements to the child welfare system. Learn more about the Pinnacle Plan here. An additional $1 million will help reduce the waiting list for Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD). The Department of Education will receive a $50 million increase to improve primary education which is desperately needed. A recent report shows Oklahoma has had the largest cut to school funding (22.8%) in the nation since the recession hit so this increase is great news.
The bad news: Agencies that serve children across the state must cope with a 5% reduction in budget. Among these agencies are the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), the Oklahoma State Dept. of Health (OSDH), and the Oklahoma Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS). These agencies meet urgent and critical needs of children and families living below the poverty threshold. For example, the Dept. of Health provides services that aid mothers and children. Home visitation, child guidance, and early intervention services for children with developmental delays are important to the economic and social well-being within our state. The Dept. of Mental Health’s services are desperately needed to stabilize families struggling with mental health issues and addiction. The number of teens needing access to mental health services is rising and many are not able to access the services they need.
What you need to know: The revenue shortfall, coupled with the income tax cut proposed this week, will mean some tough choices for state agencies providing services to children. The tax reduction will reduce the state budget by $47.4 million in 2015 and $71.1 million in 2016. Each year’s budget cuts may result in longer wait times and reductions in services for families across the state. Agencies that serve children, particularly our state’s Medicaid provider (OHCA) and the ODMHSAS, are facing significant cut backs in 2015.