On the eve of a state Capitol rally expected to attract more than 100 older Oklahomans, legislators scurried Tuesday to suggest ways to restore cuts to some senior nutrition programs.
Two Democratic state senators were camping out overnight in chilly weather on the state Capitol grounds to show their support for seniors they said were left out in the cold by the cuts. Rural Republican senators called on Gov. Brad Henry to use 5 percent of his $105 million in discretionary federal stimulus funds for the program. The governor earlier said those funds already were committed and they are to be spent on one-time projects. The state Department of Human Services cut $7.4 million earmarked for some senior nutrition programs to deal with a monthly 5 percent cut in state funding. Those monthly funding cuts are expected to continue through June, the end of this fiscal year, because state revenue has come in 26 percent below estimates for the first quarter. The governor said funding still is intact for nutrition programs that serve low-income seniors. Henry said he and Republican legislative leaders want to avoid the cost of calling a special session and to deal with the budget situation when legislators return in February. He said Monday the state is facing a financial crisis, and the funding loss for the senior nutrition programs was "just a tip of the iceberg.” The 13 members of the Senate Republican Rural Caucus met Tuesday and said they are concerned that some senior nutrition sites have closed. Funding ended Sunday. "We recognize that all state agencies and programs are experiencing a funding shortfall,” said Sen. Know It: Retirement