Patrick B. McGuigan
The Legislature began to process a state budget on Tuesday (May 5), in wake of an announcement of a budget accord among the Republican majority at the state Capitol. State Sen. Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City minority leader in the upper chamber, raised cautionary notes after Tuesday’s approval, in the upper chamber, of a Fiscal Year 2021 budget.
In comments sent to The City Sentinel and other news organizations, Floyd said, “The Oklahoma Senate passed a state budget for Fiscal Year 2021 which cuts funding by approximately 4 percent compared to the current year. Preparing the budget is a challenging task under normal circumstances but especially this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Oklahomans are hurting, our economy is struggling, and state revenues have taken a major hit.
“We commend Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson for his hard work on this budget and his efforts to limit the extent of the cuts.
“Senate Democrats understand tough choices must be made; however, we are unable to support a budget that cuts funding for core state services at a time when they are most needed. This budget includes significant cuts to public schools, higher education, human services, public health, mental health, and public safety. Prioritizing sustainable investments in these areas is critical to the long term strength of Oklahoma’s economy.
“Without the will to consider revenue options, our state budget will continue to have a structural deficit and the Legislature will be forced to plug budget holes year after year. Senate Democrats will continue to advocate for a more balanced approach.”
Previously, as the state began to edge toward a “reopening” plan for businesses, based on the approach Governor Kevin Stitt announced in April, Sen. Floyd commented, “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt many of Oklahoma’s small businesses and their employees. We agree preparations must be made to safely reopen these businesses and put Oklahomans back to work but this must be done based on sound data and recommendations from public health experts.
“Oklahoma Senate Democrats have major concerns with Governor Stitt’s plan to begin phasing out some COVID-19 business restrictions. Acting prematurely, before we have adequate testing and contact tracing in place and before Oklahoma is in compliance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines on reopening, places public safety at risk. We must proceed carefully with a balanced approach.”
Last month, Sen. Floyd applauded Stitt’s announcement that State Question 802, the Medicaid expansion initiative, would be on the upcoming June 30 primary ballot. In her statement on the ballot designation, Floyd said, “After many years of legislative attempts to address this issue failed to advance, Oklahomans will finally have a chance to vote on Medicaid expansion. Oklahoma Senate Democrats have long advocated for our state to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion. A record number of Oklahomans signed the petition to place this state question on the ballot.
“In the midst of this pandemic, we need to make sure Oklahoma voters have an opportunity to weigh in on this important issue. Oklahomans must have plenty of options to vote on State Question 802, including on Election Day, through expanded early voting hours, or with a mail in ballot.”