For Immediate Release: November 3, 2009
COFFEE, BENGE CALL ON STATE CONGRESSIONAL
TO VOTE AGAINST DEMOCRAT HEALTH CARE PLAN
Unfunded Mandates Will ‘Blow Up’ State
Saying the health care reform bill working its way
through Congress would break the bank in Oklahoma state government,
Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tem Glenn
Coffee and House Speaker Chris Benge called on Oklahoma’s
Congressional delegation to vote against the bill.
“We are already facing unprecedented fiscal challenges in
Oklahoma with the national economy in its current condition,”
said Coffee (R-OKC), “and adding the unfunded mandates on
Medicaid that this bill will impose on us will be catastrophic to
our budget, and to states across the nation.
“This would be a disaster. I can’t strongly enough
urge our Congressional delegation to vote this bill down.”
“In Oklahoma, we have put in place market and consumer driven
reforms that are working to move our state’s uninsured onto
private insurance, all while improving access to affordable health
care for all of our citizens,” said Benge (R-Tulsa). “I
wish Washington would give states the maximum amount of flexibility
possible to craft a health care plan that best meets individual
state needs. A one-size-fits-all health care policy is not the answer
for Oklahoma, or our country as a whole.”
In response to an inquiry from Congressman Tom Cole regarding the
potential impact the health care bill could have on Oklahoma, Senator
Coffee sent a letter to Cole on Tuesday, outlining his concerns,
and urging him to work to defeat the bill.
In his letter to Cole, Coffee said:
The state will most likely face a continued reduction in revenues
in FY’11. The FY’11 budget assumptions most likely will
include spending the last of the Education and Medicaid Stimulus
funds as well as Rainy Day funds in order to maintain current levels
The FY’12 outlook is even more dire as the absence of Stimulus
and Rainy Day funds will have a significant impact on the budget.
The absence of stimulus funds will be most apparent in the Medicaid
program, where over $400 million was used in FY’10 and over
$500 million will be used just to maintain current services in FY’11.
Adding tens of thousands of adults to the Medicaid rolls when the
state is struggling to cover children and the elderly is irresponsible
The reality of this bill is that more low-income individuals (now
up to 150% of the federal poverty level) will be pushed onto the
rolls of Medicaid (Sec. 1701) leaving already over-stretched State
Governments, ours included, to pick up the tab.
Benge said in his letter to Congressman Cole:
Oklahoma already is experiencing difficulty funding its current
Medicaid program due to revenue shortfalls as a result of the national
recession and decreased natural gas prices. Revenue collections
to the state in the first quarter of FY-10 trailed last year’s
collections by 29.5 percent. State agencies, on average, experienced
an initial budget reduction of 7 percent when compared to FY-09.
Agencies are also expected to see 5 percent cuts in their monthly
allocations for the remainder of the fiscal year. Even deeper cuts
may be necessary if future revenue streams continue to decline.
In the current economic environment, Oklahoma is struggling to maintain
core services for its citizens. And that is before the ramifications
of this federal health care policy and its unfunded mandates are
“In short, if it becomes law, the health care bill proposed
by Democrat leaders in Washington could blow an additional $128
million hole in our already depleted state budget,” Coffee
added. “The only solution would be to impose massive tax increases
or deep, deep cuts into viable state services.
“Certainly, there are areas that could be cut in state government,
but these cuts would go past the muscle and into the bone,”
“This legislation would do much more to hurt our state than
is likely even known right now,” said Benge. “I am confident
that our senators and representatives in Washington will listen
to the burden this legislation will place on the states in which
they live and will make the right decision in the end. We must do
all we can to inform the American people of the ramifications of
this legislation while there is still time to stop it from becoming
Coffee noted that the specter of SQ 744, constitutionally mandating
$850 million in spending for common education if passed, on top
of the health care legislation, would cause irreparable damage for
Oklahoma’s fiscal health for generations to come.
“Oklahoma’s budget is sick right now, and imposing
these added mandates on the patient is not what any competent doctor
would order,” Coffee added. “I trust our Senators and
Representatives in Washington to do the right thing and lead the
charge against this disastrous bill.”
For more information contact:
Sen. Coffee: 405-521-5636