Campaign for a Better Budget Testimonials

The Damage of State Budget Cuts: Testimonials by Oklahomans

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“The budget cuts affect everything, health care visits, food budget, no raises – not even a cost of living increase will be given at the University, where I work. If there are more cuts, we will not be spending money on any travel or consumer items other than what is absolutely necessary. If my daughter can’t afford expenses and rent, she and our grandchildren will probably have to move in with us in order to survive.” -Vickie Allen (Wanette) #DoSomethingOK

“In a few years our son will be in public schools, and with the current state of education funding .  I cannot imagine sending him to school here – not in good conscience unless major changes occur.” –Bailey Hoffner (Norman) #DoSomethingOK

“At my place of work we have a program that provides home visits to parents with infants to help them understand the development and needs of their children. This program is under the Oklahoma Child Abuse Prevention program of state funding which is being considered for a funding cut. My coworkers could lose their jobs and all the families that they provide for would lose the educational and emotional support our program gives to reduce risk of child abuse. ~ I fear going back to school for a degree in counseling due to the high cost of college. ~ My hair stylist recently graduated for OU and started working full time as a highschool teacher. He still works part time as a hair stylist because he needs the extra income. He made significantly more money as a full-time hair stylist than he does as a high school teacher. I know that benefits should be considered as well, but that he feels he needs the extra income from a second job is something to be taken very seriously when considering budgets for the public school system.”- Sarah Whitten (Norman) #DoSomethingOK

“My school-aged children are already subject to large class sizes and crowded facilities, even in a relatively well-funded district. I am concerned that lower funding for education will only increase those class sizes, make it harder to keep school facilities in proper repair, and encourage teachers to relocate to other states where they can earn a significantly higher salary.” –Floyd May (Tulsa) #DoSomethingOK

“In May of this year, I will graduate with my Masters of Social Work (MSW) degree and begin looking for work. Three of my targeted organizations (OU, OSDH, and DHS) have already offered VOBOs and warn of further cuts. Having an unstable human service sector means an unstable job market, unstable salary, and and unstable quality of life for me and my family. This leaves me torn between doing good work in a place that desperately needs it and having the decent quality of life we all want. I love my Oklahoma network, but I am not originally from the state and do not have the strong loyalty that others have. I have the privilege to be able to move my family elsewhere where I can be certain that not only will my life will be better, but where my future children will have the basic foundation needed for a successful life. One conversation that continually seems to be brought up among me and my friends is the question of whether to stay or to go. A lot of my friends have already moved. Another handful would move if they were able. Others are still deciding. And others have decided to stay. Right now, my husband and I have a three year plan. At the three year mark, we will decide whether to stay in Oklahoma or move elsewhere. Should we decide to move, our main criteria for a new location will be: quality of public education; quality of human services; arts and culture; and the job prospects. We know the statistics for staying in Oklahoma: higher probability for obesity, more likely to die early, more likely to be incarcerated, more likely to die in childbirth or for our child to die, fewer doctors, but more tornadoes, earthquakes, etc. Ranking in the bottom of so many national (and international) charts makes advertising Oklahoma’s “low cost of living” bittersweet. The financial cost may be low, but the cost to our well-being remains high.” –Anonymous Oklahoman #DoSomethingOK

“I work with teachers and our public school employees. Further budget cuts mean a lot of them will lose their jobs. Many of the school employees who aren’t teachers get paid hourly. They may keep their job, but their hours will be cut, especially in the many districts that are moving to four-day weeks. They aren’t paid well to begin with, so budget cuts will mean their pay will be below the poverty line.” –Amanda Ewing (OKC) #DoSomethingOK

“I work for a non profit that advocates for individuals with disabilities and am part of a community of advocates for the vulnerable. The deep cuts to the budget of the agencies that are in place to support and protect the citizens with disabilities, the elderly, the poor and our children have put our most vulnerable at risk for not only abuse, neglect and exploitation but lack of even the most basic of their needs being met. The populations I serve are already at risk for a negative impact on their quality of life; however, when you cut back or cut out services that they require to meet basic daily life tasks and needs these citizens become more at risk for long term health problems, emergency/crisis situations, homelessness, sickness, lack of health care, lack of food and/or shelter, conditions that violate their basic human rights as well as Constitutional rights and in some cases death. My main concern used to be about the quality of the services and supports available; but today I worry that 800,000 individuals may soon be without any of those services and supports good or bad not withstanding. The chipping away at our social supports, education, and corrections budgets has been taking place systematically over the course of years. How can Oklahomans, especially our policymakers be so shocked by the state of the State considering the tax credits/cuts, the dependency on oil revenue, the refusal to accept Federal Medicaid expansion and the developmental process of the budget (spend before you earn)? There will be a cost, whether directly or indirectly, to all the citizens of Oklahoma and we all have accountability, responsibility and most importantly the ABILITY to change the course. Advocate, engage with others, be informed, volunteer, speak up and speak out, run for office, and VOTE.” Holly Howard- (Guthrie) #DoSomethingOK

“As my husband and I are in the same field of working with mental health and/or substance abuse consumers our entire household is dependent on income from this area. This causes significant stress on my family. Our workplace is one in which we strive to help others and having these stressors causes difficulty in focusing on the work. The workplace has been impacted by cuts to programs and services that serve a purpose and have truly made an impact not only in improving lives but in saving them. Mental Health and Substance Abuse agencies have almost yearly taken cuts which have impacted the quality and amount of services that can be provided to consumers. The cuts to rehabilitation services greatly caused difficulty for those who were in need of services and assisted in providing needed prevention before symptoms became worse to learn and receive education about illness and addiction and practice ways of coping. If more cuts occur I am worried for my entire community. I worry about the educational experience for those I serve and my own child. I have fear about employment for my family and staff I supervise. Even more I have substantial concerns about the quality of life my consumers will experience. Crisis will increase with no help and no one to turn to for supports. Crisis is more costly than maintenance and being able to manage symptoms initially.” –Summer King (OKC) #DoSomethingOK

“My son was cut from Sooner Care while our income remained level. Because I couldn’t afford the Marketplace policy available for him, he remains uninsured, and we pay out of pocket for every checkup and doctor visit. My husband is also uninsured, because we cannot afford the Marketplace policy available to him. Medicaid expansion could have eased this constant fear in our lives. I work at a non-profit serving Oklahomans in need, and my leadership and colleagues work in an environment underpinned by fear, of losing programs, coworkers, or our jobs. As a breadwinner, I feel the consequences of this budget crisis could have a devastating affect on my family.” – Kelly Rogers (OKC) #DoSomethingOK

“Although the budget cuts are not directly impacting me currently, I work in the mental health field and have witnessed first hand people suffering from severe mental illness that desperately need help but are unable to get the help they need. Additionally, my best friend works for DHS with the Developmentally Disabled. Not only are the workloads crushing and unsustainable, but they are often living in homes dependent on funding for house assistants that will provide their care. My friend has witnessed first hand the abuse and exploitation that occurs to those individuals when funding is cut to the point that they are unable to get proper care and yet are dependent upon it. It is heartbreaking! As someone who has worked in the Community Mental Health system for well over 20 years, I have seen an ongoing erosion in those services thanks to continual budget cuts. Thanks to tax cuts that have offered no benefit to the community, myself and my colleagues are witnessing many suffer needlessly and it is heartbreaking! The system is failing those individuals and failing their families!” –Cheryl Bay (Norman) #DoSomethingOK

“Budget cuts make me feel hopeless. My whole neighborhood has less hope and young adults are feeling like they have to make plans to get out of the state somehow so they can have a better chance at health care and jobs. And none of us want to live in a world where only the wealthiest can afford to educate their kids in a safe environment. Poverty in my area will just snowball into more poverty and if there is no way out, crime will definitely go up. It makes me sad. And scared.” – Charissa Schaefer (Tulsa) #DoSomethingOK

I’m a teacher at an inner-city school. I cannot get materials that I need to execute lessons and carry out best practices. I will watch my highly qualified colleagues left without jobs as they cut positions. I will take on extra duties that should not be put on a professional teacher. In the meantime, my pay iis so low, it is extremely stressful to make ends meet as a single person. – Hope Cory (OKC) #DoSomethingOK

My clients with disabled children are getting their monies from DHS cut from $36/month to $36/quarter. They will have to pick which services to continue as they are barely making ends meet to begin with. – April Merrill (Tulsa) #DoSomethingOK

The budget cuts will affect the people who most need state services. Those that are disabled either mentally or physically. –Tina Woods (Miami) #DoSomethingOK

Further state budget cuts will affect my job, the development of my workplace, and the continued employment of my friends and family. –Shasta Fenwick (Norman) #DoSomethingOK

We will be lowering the amount of treatment to our clients from 5 hours per week to 2 1/2 hours per week in the beginning of outpatient treatment which could greatly affect the recovery process of people coming in with a history of years of addiction” –Sondra Glenn (Ada) #DoSomethingOK

As a small business owner that frequently works with public education, the budget cuts that restricted public school extra curricular activities has negatively affected my business in a profound way. As that volume and revenue stream has shrunk, we cannot employ as many people as in past years. –Kent Johnson (Norman) #DoSomethingOK

A retired teacher, I am the mother and mother-in-law to two public school teachers and the grandmother of two elementary grandsons. I am so concerned about their future. I volunteer at a food pantry and most of out clients are the working poor and the disabled. I am concerned with their sources of help being terminated. I am Court Appointed Child Advocate (CASA) who works with DHS trying to get services and safe homes for children. Their budget is being cut and the are already overworked. -Glenda Puett (Broken Arrow) #DoSomethingOK

I have a daughter who was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetic defect that causes her to have insatiable hunger. She is living in a group home that will keep her safe with all food locked up. However, the agency that is responsible for her care cannot hire good staff at minimum wage. Staff numbers have also been reduced and salaries cut by 6% and staff health insurance deductions doubled. Who can work and support a family in a situation like that? They could do better at McDonald’s. We have experienced bad situations because the agency cannot pay enough to hire stable people to care for our children with developmental disabilities – one of society’s most vulnerable groups. And our Republican governor won’t accept Medicaid dollars because of politics? It’s time to stop giving some tax breaks and support Oklahomans who need help. -Gretchen Hannefield (Tulsa) #DoSomethingOK

If funding for OKDHS is cut my mom could possibly lose her job. She was just diagnosed with cancer one month ago and will not get treatment without health insurance. For some of us, these cuts are a matter of life and death. -Stephanie Rush (Tulsa) #DoSomethingOK

I work for a nonprofit that is contracted with Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. We are looking at a potential 5-10% decrease in our contracts for next year due to the cuts. This will cut into our program funding. We are currently in need of two more staff members, but we are hiring only part time due to anticipation of the budget cuts. If our staff support decreases, we cannot provide the same quality or quantity of services for our mental health clients. – Linn Blohm (Norman) #DoSomethingOK

I am a public school teacher. I moved to Oklahoma in ’95 and made Oklahoma my home. Despite low wages, I have never considered leaving Oklahoma until now. With Reductions in Force (RIF) likely throughout our state, and the general lack of regard for public education in this state, I am at this time considering employment elsewhere. My sincere wish is that our legislators would realize that our students, educators and public schools matter more than the continued tax cuts that are driving our schools into the ground. – Ila Kelley (Newcastle) #DoSomethingOK

I work for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, and we administer grants to Community Action Agencies and Councils of Governments who directly provide programs and support to low-income individuals and families. I am angered that Commerce has had to reduce already executed contracts with our agencies by 7%. These reduced funds have resulted in fewer meals available to hungry seniors in Oklahoma, especially in rural areas; reduced support available to Head Start programs, and reduced access to free or reduced cost medications. If there are additional cuts, not only will additional services for low-income individuals and families be lost, but these cuts could potentially hurt employees at both the state and agency level. – Amanda Marcott-Thottunkal (Norman) #DoSomethingOK

We own and manage rental property. People are living pay check to pay check. We are graduating high school students with lower standards creating a workforce with minimum skill sets. – Marguerite McGuffin (OKC) #DoSomethingOK

The anxiety at Tulsa Public Schools has certainly impacted my children, and the cuts in public services will most certainly impact me as a church leader and an educator in the county jail. -Rev. Chris Moore (Tulsa) #DoSomethingOK

My mother works as a public educator. She teaches four-year-olds in one of the poorest schools in Oklahoma City. To hear her describe the despair she and her colleagues face every day breaks my heart. They already struggle heroically to perform basic functions of their job and to provide a safe and positive learning environment in the face of tremendous odds, and an increasingly hostile work environment. My mother is already so exhausted. Further cuts to public education can only make this impossible situation worse.- John Rushton (Norman) #DoSomethingOK

I work as an LPN for a small home health agency. We mostly see Medicare patients, but I have had the occasional Medicaid patient. The conditions most Medicaid patients live under should qualify for the description of “squalid.” These are people who have no resources, and no hope whatsoever of becoming independent and purchasing their own healthcare, usually due to a combination of mental, physical and cognitive deficits. I see these patients slip through the cracks all the time, and the result is poor health outcomes – a euphemism for undignified, painful, premature death, that could have been prevented. This is not hyperbole. A middle aged man with congestive heart failure who comes down with a toothache, who can not find an oral surgeon willing to take Medicaid (there aren’t many who do already, my office has struggled to find one for patients of ours), can die very easily when the infection in the abscessed tooth moves into his heart after going several weeks without treatment. The idea that these are the people who should bear the brunt of our budget crisis is utterly inhumane. – John Rushton (Norman) #DoSomethingOK

Budget cuts have impacted and will continue to impact those individuals I serve at work dealing with mental health and substance abuse. Those services are still needed despite budget cuts and sadly, in the long run will impact other aspects of our state such as in hospitals and jails, etc. – Lisa Webb (Tuttle) #DoSomethingOK

I am a student, and budget cuts have created chaos at my publicly funded college. Services are being cut, and teachers seem to be looking for a way out. – Heather Hall (OKC) #DoSomethingOK

As a parent of 4 Native American students I see the funding that is dedicated by law to assisting Native students throughout their public school experience being thrown “up for grabs”. By this I mean the intention of this funding (Title VII – Indian Education) should go 100% to students enrolled in a federally recognized tribes in the North America, it is being used to supplement teachers/school activities and not on Native students. This does not serve our Native students in the way it was intended. As a tribal administrator of education programs, the upcoming budget cuts means creating new social programs to serve the Native students in our area. For instance 79% of our students are free/reduced lunches and approximately 25% of those rely on my department for childcare services. The need to keep these students fed and taken care will increase if the local school district implements a change to 4 day school weeks. This impacts my federal funding by taking away from the other programming. Also, I am concerned about shortening school weeks and increasing schools affecting ALL students retention levels. How are we to learn more or at least the same with less amounts of time? What is the purpose of education in this state? -Alison Black (Red Rock) #DoSomethingOK

Limiting people we can serve which results in criminal justice involvement, Child Welfare cases, increased health care costs, higher unemployment, etc. – Dan Cross (Broken Arrow) #DoSomethingOK

My 2 daughters (4th generation in teaching in Okla.) are now exploring options for better pay and working atmosphere. – Michelle Ahern (Elgin) #DoSomethingOK

I’m most concerned about the severe cuts to public education because it is the one thing that best prepares our citizens to gain quality employment and is a significant contributor to keeping our citizens on the path to be productive contributors and not become part of the population that will end up needing government services, such as mental health, incarceration, public health, etc. It’s one or the other — either we educate them or we will end up paying anyway in other more significant ways. – Meloyde Blancett (Tulsa) #DoSomethingOK

The elected officials in Oklahoma have crippled the government instead of leading it. The failure to plan for the down turn in the Oil and Gas Industry is inexcusable. The continued failure to lead is unacceptable. -Harlan Hentges (Edmond) #DoSomethingOK

We are working with a decreased staff and are having to use waiting lists. More cuts will result in lost jobs but more importantly lost services to those who desperately need them to survive. -Vicki Orsburn (Ada) #DoSomethingOK

My husband and I relocated to Oklahoma City in August. We are both mid-level professionals and have loved the economic opportunities and activities in OKC. The primary reason for our location was job-based but we also came to Oklahoma looking for a place to call home and begin establishing ourselves as a family. The current political climate, specifically budget cuts, are highly discouraging. These cuts will be very influential in our ultimate decision to purchase property and begin a family in the state of Oklahoma. If things stay the same, or worsen, I do not see that we will be here for more than the next few years. -Darcee Simon (OKC) #DoSomethingOK

We have fewer teachers in our building and resources run low at times. A number of our students have parents in education so they feel the personal hits as well. The lack of concern for our kids is really showing now and there seems to be an atmosphere of apathy and defeat as they are seeing how little those that are supposed to make the decisions really care. Only a change in revenue generation and priorities can stop the continuation of this atmosphere and devastation. People will leave and those that can’t will be left to make do with what is left behind. -Cory Williams (Tulsa) #DoSomethingOK