Oklahoma Families Prepare As Legislators Work On Budget
TULSA, Oklahoma - State lawmakers went back to the drawing board Thursday after their latest budget plan failed just 24 hours ago.
Some lawmakers are defending votes against the plan, despite severe cuts looming for state services.
While the legislature works to prop up the budget, families who rely on some critical services from DHS have until December first to make other arrangements.
The lunchroom at Pathways Adult Learning Center provides some moments of normal life for people with profound intellectual problems.
Here, they can talk with friends, work on projects or puzzles and learn some of the basic skills to have some independence though few ever will live alone.
The question now is whether they can stay here, with state support for the program due to end December 1.
"What they decide to do, when this comes down, I hope they don't leave entirely, but some will have to," said Pathways Director Monique Scraper.
The Department of Human Services pays part of the cost, for about half of the families who use Pathways in Tulsa.
According to DHS, 1,500 Oklahoma families have adult intellectually disabled children in similar programs and 7,500 are on the waiting list.
"If they're isolated at home, sitting in front of the TV day after day, and that's the reality with these waivers being cut, if that happens, regression, academically and socially is likely," Scraper said.
At the state capitol, Tulsa Representative Eric Proctor voted against the budget deal that could have propped up the program.
He said it's already too late to avoid more cuts. The question now is how to fix the budget long term.
"In my opinion the budget was orchestrated to fail and the whole process was orchestrated to fail knowing the most vulnerable would in jeopardy and that's something I voted against," Proctor said.
Proctor said he couldn't support shifting the tax burden to the middle class instead of higher income earners.
The final House vote on the budget proposal came out to 71 for it and 27 against it.
State law required the bill get 76 votes to pass.
Oklahoma voters set up those rules in 19-92 by approving state question 6-40.
It amended the state constitution to say any revenue bill must be approved by three-fourths of the House and Senate, and signed by the Governor.
A revenue bill can also be passed by a vote of the people.