Due to the downturn in the economy, the budgets of all state agencies have been cut equally. The budget of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services is dependent upon state and federal funds. To avoid losses in federal funding, DHS was forced to disproportionately absorb all of the state budget cuts in certain programs. One of the areas that has been hit the hardest by the DHS cuts is the funding of senior nutrition centers around the state.
These nutrition centers have been notified that their funding will be cut effective November 1. This has caused these centers to initiate plans to close facilities, limit services and furlough employees. The end result is that thousands of Oklahoma seniors who depend upon a daily meal at these centers or get a mobile meal delivered to their home will simply not get fed.
Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate agree that the funding problems of the senior nutrition program need to be fixed. It is not a partisan issue. However, the legislature can not fix this problem until it is brought back into session in February of 2010 three months from now. The only solution available is the Governor. The Governor, as it was reported today, has $105 million dollars in discretionary funds that he has complete control over. He can direct those funds be spent anyway he chooses.
I acknowledge that there are many worthy programs across the state that are suffering because of budget cuts but the senior nutrition program is different in that it provides a daily meal directly to those who need it most. During this time of economic turmoil, the senior nutrition program is needed now more than ever.
We are approaching the Governors last year in office and I am sure that he wants to spend his discretionary money in places that will have a great long-lasting impact on this state and on his legacy, but a small portion of the Governor's $105 million could have an immediate positive impact on some of Oklahomas most vulnerable citizens.
I am not asking the Governor to fund this program in its entirety I simply am asking that he provide the program with enough funds so that we can provide daily meals for these seniors through the winter. Once the legislature convenes in February, the ball will be in our court but until then we need the Governor to act.
If the Governor will not agree to spend any of his discretionary funds to fill the gap for the senior nutrition program then I would ask that he publicly disclose exactly where he does intend to spend the $105 million that he has at his disposal so that we can all have a better idea of what his priorities are.