State Sen. Debbe Leftwich said it was unconscionable for the Department of Human Services (DHS) to pass out nearly $200,000 in pay hikes at a time when the agency has cut $7.4 million from senior nutrition programs. Leftwich said while many employees at DHS and other state agencies are underpaid, raising salaries while cutting senior nutrition is the wrong thing to do. She applauded House member Randy Terrill, R-Moore, for bringing attention to the situation on Wednesday.
“This is outrageous, but it proves what I’ve said many times—DHS has deep pockets when it comes to something they want, like these raises. We have seniors who are literally going to suffer because of the cuts to the nutrition program, but the bureaucrats claim they couldn’t make cuts elsewhere,” said Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City. “This is indefensible.”
DHS has argued the raises were a necessary market-rate adjustment. Twenty-nine of the top 36 administrators at DHS have been given raises ranging from $135 to $1,894 per month.
“We have agencies that are being forced to leave empty posts unfilled, furlough remaining workers and cut programs, yet DHS proceeded with these raises. It’s just unbelievable,” Leftwich said. “For years I’ve tried to move state services for seniors out of DHS and other agencies to a stand-alone entity that will make taking care our older Oklahomans the priority it should be. As far as I am concerned, this action by DHS just underscores why they should not be entrusted with programs older Oklahomans need to survive.”