By Rep. RICK WEST
More good news came last when the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Board Chairman Don Millican said the board was considering helping fill our state’s current budget shortfall. Millican said he plans to ask board members to vote on proposals during their Nov. 14 meeting.
We should all consider this a win for Oklahoma. TSET has more than $1 billion, and I was encouraged to see Millican step forward and offer to help the state during this financial crunch. Specifically, Millican has identified two areas where TSET could step in.
The first is senior meal programs. TSET could pull $1.81 million to maintain senior-nutrition services across Oklahoma via the Department of Human Services. These centers provide well over two million meals to seniors over 60 each year, and I know this issue is important to many residents of LeFlore County.
Second, Millican wants the board to consider giving $1.27 million to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. This money would be used for children in crisis through mobile crisis response teams. TSET says the program served more than 2,700 kids during the most recent fiscal year.
Combined, these proposals would fill $3 million of the funding gap our state currently faces. While it is not the end-all, be-all, it is a good step forward. Millican’s plan proves that TSET can help these agencies during times like these, and I look forward to seeing how the board members vote next week.
Last week, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) made headlines after the agency’s commissioner and senior deputy commissioner stepped down. The Board of Health said it was facing an immediate financial loss after “years of over-expenditures and fiscal mismanagement.”
The interim commissioner has said OSDH is $31 million short. This is not because of lawmakers – it is due to monetary gimmickry and shell games.
Now let me ask you, how can lawmakers increase taxes on everyday Oklahomans when agencies are operating like OSDH? It’s not right. We know there’s mismanagement, and we ought to be fixing those issues before crying for more revenue.
Auditing agencies is a really good place to start, and I’m not just talking about a casual audit. Lawmakers need to be funding formal, third-party audits to make sure these agencies aren’t giving taxpayers the runaround. If an audit determines an agency needs more money, then lawmakers should give it to the department.
But my guess is that auditors will find mismanagement just like exists at the Health Department. I don’t think those folks were outliers. People want to know where their money is going. They deserve to know where it is going, and I am doing my level-best to find out.
Please know I am still as proud to be representing you at the Capitol as I was my first day on the job. It is such a privilege to serve you. If you need anything, I’m at 405-557-7413 or [email protected]. Thanks, and God bless.
Get our free daily email updates. Click HERE to sign up.
Spread the word about your business or service by sponsoring OTHER STORIES or another section of heavenerledger.com Call (918) 649-4712 for more information.
To submit a story or information, or to make a correction please send an email to [email protected]
Copyright 2017 Heavener Ledger. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.