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Seniors lobby Oklahoma lawmakers

Despite snow and inclement conditions, nearly 350 Oklahoma seniors gathered Monday at the state Capitol to talk with legislators about their concerns.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Modified: February 25, 2013 at 7:12 pm •  Published: February 26, 2013

Barney Allen, of Ardmore, said he hopes lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin reconsider efforts to reduce the state's top personal income tax rate.

“I'm of the opinion that Oklahoma doesn't have sufficient funding now, and I don't want to see them jeopardize our government by limiting our income even more than it already is,” said Allen, 77.

Allen said it is risky to cut state revenue sources at a time when cuts are expected in federal allocations to states as part of a way to reduce the country's deficit.

Allen said he is involved with a nonprofit mental health services organization that covers nine counties. It covers a large rural area, which drives up expenses, and more funding is needed, he said.

Dank, chairman of the House of Representatives Long Term Care and Senior Services Committee, told seniors gathered in the House chamber they should come to the Capitol often. About 711,000 of the state's 3.4 million residents are 60 years old or older.

“Many legislators think the big issues of concern to seniors are end-of-life issues, like how to provide nursing home and hospice care,” Dank said.

He said most seniors in Oklahoma still live at home and lead active lives. Legislators, he said, too often “ignore living issues.”

Dank asked them to support two of his bills. One would exempt hearing aids from sales taxes, and another would freeze property taxes on primary residences for all Oklahomans older than 65.

“Gravel pits are exempt from sales taxes in Oklahoma but hearing aids for seniors are not,” he said.

The sales taxes on some costly hearing aids price them out of range for many seniors, Dank said.