Oklahoma moms appeal: Fix the budget gap - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Oklahoma moms appeal: Fix the budget gap

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Conner McDougall's mom is appealing to the Oklahoma Legislature to maintain the programs he needs to survive. (KTEN) Conner McDougall's mom is appealing to the Oklahoma Legislature to maintain the programs he needs to survive. (KTEN)

CARTER COUNTY, Okla. -- "Frustration."

That seems to be the one word used to describe the budget battle in Oklahoma.

On Thursday, Republicans in the State Senate indicated they would consider doubling the current production tax on oil and gas wells as a way to break a stalemate and fix that $215 million shortfall.

The problem is, every time a plan gets to the House, it dies.

"Seems like we get here and something happens... it's a transformation of some kind," said State Rep. Pat Ownbey (R-District 48). "Common sense seems to go out the door sometimes, all in the name of politics."

Sadly, for some, that could change their whole lives. And for Sonya McDougall Hunter and her family, it could mean packing up and moving out of Oklahoma.

"I'm very frustrated and I'm very disappointed in our legislature," Hunter said.

But she is a mom on a mission, fighting to protect the ability to care for her son, Conner McDougall, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury in a 2006 accident that claimed the lives of his father and brother.

Hunter is also standing up for thousands of other caregivers across the State of Oklahoma.

"In my opinion, the aged and disabled should not be questioned on whether they are taken care of," she said.

Just this week, the back-and-forth of the budget mess triggered demonstrations at the State Capitol. But Hunter and those who work to provide support for disabled Oklahomans say this could go from a war of words to a life-or-death situation.

"Take that hope away and you will put a lot of them in a position where they just give up," said Joni Bruce, executive director of the Oklahoma Family Network.

She works daily with families helping with advocacy, training, even emotional support. Bruce says if something isn't done about the state budget, more people with disabilities will be forced into nursing homes, even institutions, that Oklahoma simply doesn't have -- ultimately costing the state even more.

"We closed all our institutions because they were crumbling around all the people who lived there," Bruce said.

Marsha Silva is the mother of 10-year-old John, who has developmental disabilities. She said her son goes to school every day, and they depend on state services provided through the school, including occupational therapy and speech therapy. -- other programs that are on the budget chopping block.

"What if he loses this?" Silva asked. "I have no clue.  Would I have to pay for therapist to come and see him, or would have to stay home? He could get some care... I don't even know." '

Sonya McDougall Hunter is faced with the prospect of losing medical supplies and providers for Conner, including the only company in Oklahoma that offers the ventilator services that keep Conner alive.

She says that leaves here with only one option.

"You're going to start forcing people like us to literally move, because we can't afford it." 

Members of the Oklahoma Senate on Thursday urged their colleagues in the House to push through a package of tax hikes, including that 4 percent tax rate on all new oil and gas wells. 

The current rate is 2 percent.

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