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Oklahoma Budget Shortfall to Impact Services

Oklahoma lawmakers will face a billion dollar shortfall just to make it through the remainder of this fiscal year that ends in June, according to Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, chairman of a house budget subcommittee.

According to the Associated Press, Peters said it will take a combination of budget cuts, federal economic stimulus money and use of Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund to balance the budget.

AARP Oklahoma Associate State Director Sean Voskuhl said legislators will have hard decisions to make in the next few months.

“With only $600 million in the Rainy Day Fund, it’s going to require some tough choices,” he said. “As always AARP’s priority is to ensure that funding is maintained for programs and services that protect Oklahoma’s most vulnerable residents.”

A top priority for AARP Oklahoma—either in a special session or the regular legislative session—is restoring funding for senior nutrition programs. AARP members from across the state participated in a rally at the State Capitol in early November protesting a $7.4 million cut that shut down more than 40 nutrition sites state-wide and stopped home delivery of thousands of meals to the elderly.

As lawmakers search for a way to fund the remaining budget for Fiscal Year 2010, they will be forced to look ahead to FY 2011, Voskuhl said.

AARP Oklahoma is supporting legislation that will improve staffing, safety and quality of care in nursing homes as well as funding and expanding access to home and community-based long-term care services.

These services include funding for adult day-care centers, the ADvantage Waiver program, and programs that provide options for people to age in their own homes.

In consumer-related priorities, AARP will support legislation that will stop the abusive practice of predatory lending/home repair fraud, increase consumer protections against payday loans and protect victims of identity theft.

The association will continue its efforts for older Oklahomans to have access to affordable utility rates and oppose legislation that would reduce needed state regulation and increase utility rates.

With national attention focused on health care reform, AARP will continue supporting efforts on the state level to provide affordable and accessible health care including reducing the cost of prescription drugs.

The association says it will support legislation that would helps grandparents raising grandchildren as well as proposals that would increase mobility and housing options and community services for those over 50.

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