Monday, November 6, 2017

Funding Health, Mental Health Care and DHS By Rep. John Bennett

I want to ensure our elderly, mental health care providers and receivers of services of the programs provided by the Department of Human Services, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority that these agencies will receive appropriate funding for these programs.

It’s extremely disappointing that these agency heads continue to scare our citizens by sending letters stating services will be cut when these agency heads have been assured the money will be there.

I want my senior citizens and receivers of these services to know the House has passed measures to protect these programs. Last week, the House voted on four measures to move more than $106 million in Rainy Day and carryover funds from fiscal year 2017 to send to these three health care agencies. In addition, the House passed a measure that would eliminate a remaining incentive on gross production tax on legacy oil and gas wells (those spudded before July 2015). This would change the gross production tax rate from 4 percent to 7 percent on these wells, resulting in almost $50 million of funding this year for health care and $100 million next year that can be used for teacher pay raises.

These measures would fill more than 70 percent of the current budget hole. We are just waiting for the state Senate and the governor to approve and sign these bills.

I also have filed bills to line-item this money to ensure these agency heads spend it on these vulnerable services. I have and will continue to fight for our elderly, disabled and children.

House Republicans also have identified an additional $30 million in revolving funds that can be applied to further close the hole down from $215 million to approximately $30 million. We will continue to work to keep funding core services, such as education, healthcare, public safety, transportation, senior services and others without significant cuts.

I also would remind you that our state’s economy continues to show signs of recovery, and we have reason for hope. October’s gross receipts, for instance, were up more than 10 percent above the same month last year.

In spite of the fear some like to spread, I believe that senior citizens in need will continue to receive their current care. So will the disabled.

Please keep me and other legislators in your prayers; the challenges we face are significant.

Oklahomans are resilient and strong, and it is how I know WE WILL overcome and achieve a better future. Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you.

John Bennett represents Oklahoma House District 2. He can be reached at (405) 557-7315 or

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