Sen. Corn's letter to state lawmakers
State Sen. Kenneth Corn is seeking the signatures of state lawmakers on a petition that would enable the Oklahoma Legislature to call itself into an emergency special session to deal with life-threatening cuts to the states senior nutrition programs and any other problems being caused by a massive state budget shortfall.
The Poteau Democrat began collecting signatures from fellow lawmakers last week. Corn already has received signatures from 25 Senate and House Democrats. Corn also is asking every Republican legislator in the House and Senate to sign the petition.
Corn said the failure of state leaders to stop $7.4 million in budget cuts to Oklahomas various senior nutrition programs was the reason he began the petition drive. He also is urging all lawmakers to turn down the per diem legislators get for meal and lodging expenses during a legislative session if a special session is called.
Everyones now talking about these cuts. Thats good. There are many solutions out there, but nothing is really getting done, Corn said. Meanwhile people are going hungry and nutrition centers are closing. Its time for the legislature to do the right thing right now.
State Department of Human Services officials cut nearly 30 percent of the states nutrition program budget about a month ago, eliminating funding for more than 780,000 hot meals that were scheduled to be served to the states elderly and home-bound citizens over the next few months. Some senior nutrition centers have closed because of the budget cuts and more closings are expected.
I know dozens of other legislators of both parties who feel just as strongly as I do about this, Corn said. Im giving every member of the legislature the ability to state clearly where they stand on this issue and the entire problem of Oklahomas revenue shortfall.
These are life-threatening budget cuts. Its not enough to admit a problem exists and then do nothing about it while people suffer. Fiddling while Rome burns, which is what has been done to date, is por leadership in my opinion.
Corn wants the entire membership of the House and the Senate to conduct an extensive review of what other budget cuts have already been made in order to determine what additional action may be needed to ease the current financial crisis.
Corn is calling for both the House and Senate to meet as a committee-of-the-whole in order to give every member of the legislature the ability to learn details of existing and planned cuts and to offer suggestions on what efforts should be made to lessen the impact of the financial collapse.
Corn remains highly critical of recent DHS pay raises for top executives which cost approximately $200,000.
Those raises were wrong, but they are a perfect example of our problem, he said. Right now, no one knows exactly what is happening to state government. That has to change. How many raises or other cuts, like those to our senior nutrition centers, have been implemented that we dont know about?
Corn doesnt like the across-the-board 5 percent per month budget cuts that state agencies have been forced to make over the last three months.
We must look at every state agency. Some cuts must be made, but those cuts must be efficient, effective and made in a targeted way. We need to use a scalpel to balance the budget not a gigantic meat clever.
State law gives the legislature the power to call itself into special session if two-thirds of the members in the House and Senate call for such a session by signing a petition.
I will be releasing the names of those Senate and House members who have signed the petition calling for a special session, Corn said. I believe every Oklahoman has a right to know where their state senator and state representative stand on the issue of denying food to senior citizens.