When the Oklahoma Supreme Court determined that a cigarette tax purposed by last year’s budget was unconstitutional, it cut a $215 million hole in the budget. That hole is being filled with cuts to programs Oklahomans with disabilities need. Now, as lawmakers debate the budget for 2018, many depending on disability services are bracing themselves while others may be planning to leave.
Are Budget Cuts Forcing Oklahomans with Disabilities to Leave?
In an interview with KTUL, a father discussed the potential that $75 million may be cut from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. This could mean that funding for the services his daughter depends on could be cut.
This man’s daughter is 16 years old and has a diagnosis of intellectual disability and cerebral palsy. Her father, who in addition to being a military veteran, is also a single parent who works as a social worker. He depends on disability services to make sure his daughter is well cared for, but with cuts looming, he is considering moving to Virginia. He believes he can find fully funded services for his daughter in Virginia, and though he loves Oklahoma, he has to consider what is best for his daughter.
This is not just a concern for families of children with disabilities. Certain therapy programs and programs that help with living expenses could also be on the chopping block. That means big changes on the horizon for anyone who receives Social Security disability benefits, especially if they use these programs to maintain their lifestyle or to make ends meet. Many could find themselves struggling.
Lawmakers are giving the cigarette tax another go along with a 6 percent fuel tax and a revision of alcohol taxes. However, there are pockets of resistance to some of these plans, which makes it less likely that these measures will pass without some concessions. Without agreement among our state’s lawmakers, crucial services may end up millions of dollars short.
Your Tulsa disability attorneys here at Troutman & Troutman will continue to monitor this situation and keep an eye out for programs that can help Oklahomans with disabilities get the help they need.