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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

For Immediate Release: March 3, 2010

Sen. Constance N. Johnson
Sen. Constance N. Johnson

Sen. Constance N. Johnson Comments on Restoring Senior Nutrition Funding

Sen. Constance N. Johnson (D-Oklahoma County) on Wednesday issued the following statement regarding the controversy that unfolded in the Legislature this week over whether to restore funding to Oklahoma’s senior nutrition system, after funding was cut by the Human Services Commission last summer:

“Today Senate Democrats succeeded in breaking an impasse over funding for senior nutrition centers. An agreement reached mid-afternoon on Wednesday provides for restoration of fair funding for seniors on July 1, 2010, and relocation of the senior nutrition program from the Department of Human Services to another state agency that will work differently on behalf of seniors.

It all began on Monday when Senate Democrats took a noble step and registered their displeasure by voting against two bills that were part of an agreement between Democrat Governor Brad Henry and the Republican legislative leadership, and that would have eliminated funding for senior nutrition centers in the state’s 2010 budget. Senate Democrats took the bold step to make clear the Caucus’s opposition to the failure of the budget agreement to restore funding to many of Oklahoma’s senior nutrition centers.

On Monday, the Senate considered a slate of budget bills designed to contend with the continuing reduction in revenues caused by the recession. In all, we were asked to spend almost $240 million out of the Rainy Day Fund and almost as much in federal stimulus dollars, leaving $150 million in the Rainy Day Fund, according to Senate staff.

One glaring omission in the agreement was the failure to restore senior nutrition center funding. To restore senior nutrition funding for the remainder of this fiscal year would have only cost $2.5 million. In perspective, this amount is less than one percent of what we were asked to spend in supplemental appropriations.

This was a political battle that was spun in the media, but that ultimately required a moral compass as a guide. Helping our seniors is far more important than any partisan political purpose; it is simply the right thing to do. Further, the only way the agreement reached on Wednesday crumbles and other functions of government endure cuts is if those who crafted it and agreed to ensuring fair funding for seniors as of July 1 continue to ignore the plight of seniors who deserve, if nothing else, a hot meal.

The question was simple: What public purpose is served by denying seniors a hot meal? That’s the question we asked and the decision makers were unable to answer, thus the break in the impasse.

Oklahoma’s senior citizens are worth far more than $2.5 million – again, less than one percent of the money that was spent Monday. The agreement that was reached today has major potential for further progress in the area of issues related to our seniors such as a separate agency, something that I and numerous colleagues have advocated for years.”

For more information contact:
Sen. Johnson: 405-521-5531


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