Citizens descend on state Capitol for budget rally 

If the state legislators do not adjust revenue spending before next session, every state agency will have to trim up to 12 percent on top of the cuts already enacted this session, Oklahoma Policy Institute Director David Blatt said yesterday at a budget rally in the state Capitol.

Throughout the morning, groups of participants wearing lime green T-shirts wandered the halls of the Capitol to find and speak to their state elected officials.  

Organizing the rally in less than a week, more than 30 state agencies asked an expected 500 participants to converse with their legislators in person about how the budget cuts are affecting them, and to ask for help in ensuring adequate funding to the necessary state agencies.

The groups leading the rally were hopeful that legislators will take notice, said Jane Nelson, Oklahoma Nurses Association executive director and one of the leaders of the rally.

"We want legislators to stand up and look at revenue enhancements to fill the holes in our budget," Nelson said.  

Giving out T-shirts with the phrase "Solutions "¦ for the life of our state" to participants, Mary Brinkley of the Oklahoma Association of Homes and Services for the Aging said she wanted to see a "sea of green" express why budget revenue enhancements are necessary for the state.

Also at the rally, Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Oklahoma City, said when citizens show up en masse and express their right to free speech, they can hold their legislators accountable to the issues and needs of the people.  

"(The budget) is a matter of reshuffling the cards," she said. "Money is one form of influence, but the people in numbers, in my opinion, trumps money."

Because this is a re-election year for most state legislators, this is a time when voters will show their ultimate power, Johnson said.  

While the state may have seen a revenue increase in March, Blatt said it came too late for next year's budget, which was set in February and cannot be changed unless through legislative decision.  

"Everything, everything takes a major hit. That's why we need our elected officials to show leadership to preserve our public services," he said. "LeighAnne Manwarren

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