Friday, January 27, 2017

Budget Talks Held with Law Enforcement Officials

State Reps. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw) and other legislators have met with law enforcement leaders about their budget needs for this year and the future.

Bennett, Mark Lepak (R-Claremore), Bobby Cleveland (R-Slaughterville) and Greg Babinec (R-Cushing) have, over the past two weeks, met with a number of state law enforcement agencies regarding their budget needs.

Bennett said, “We did this in an unprecedented way to ensure as leaders of the House Public Safety committees we are all on the same sheet of music and that we understand the agency missions and critical needs. The meetings went great, and we all have a detailed understanding of the agency budget and needs.”

Bennet is the chair of the House Appropriations & Budget Public Safety Subcommittee. Cleveland is the chair of the House Public Safety Committee and Babinec is the vice chair. Both serve on the A&B Public Safety Subcommittee. Lepak is the vice chair of the A&B Public Safety Subcommittee and serves as a member of the standing House Public Safety Committee.

Bennett said the agency heads will be presenting their budget needs to the full subcommittee in the coming weeks.

“Due to the revenue shortfall we need to ensure that we as legislators are being good stewards of the tax payer dollars, at the same time ensuring we prioritize the money the agencies need to ensure public safety for our citizens,” Bennet said.

Agency heads in the recent meetings were asked what effect a 5 percent, 7.5 percent and 10 percent cut would do to their agencies and their ability to provide public safety. Lawmakers also asked what cost-saving measures have been implemented thus far by the agencies and what their plans are for the future. 

“All the agencies were concerned about their budgets but ensured us that they will still do their job and ensure the citizens are safe,” Bennet said. “It was a breath of fresh air to hear their recommendations on streamlining services and their willingness to do all they can to ensure we take care of Oklahomans. It’s not often that agencies come to the table with solutions; all these agencies did.” 

Bennett concluded, “Myself, Rep. Cleveland and our committees will be working closely with these agencies to ensure they have adequate funding to complete their mission within the bounds of the revenue we have to appropriate. We're all proud of what these professionals do and the sacrifice they make. I encourage the members of the House and Senate to make public safety one of the highest priorities this session. One of the highest priorities of the government should be the safety of its citizens.”

Agencies represented in the budget meetings were: the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, the state Medical Examiner’s office, the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, the Oklahoma Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission, the state Fire Marshall and the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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