Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, urged members of Oklahoma's Republican-controlled legislature to avoid painful cuts in state services by tapping into the state's reserves to balance its budget.
"I implore you to remember there are very real - and human - consequences to budget cuts. The men and women who make state government work are not numbers on a spreadsheet," Henry said.
"Government is the schoolteacher grading papers at night. It is the meat and poultry inspector ensuring a safe food supply. It's the child welfare specialist investigating suspected child abuse. It's the nursing home attendant caring for a loved one," he said.
Henry's speech Feb. 1 came a week after he reached a deal with top legislators to balance the current year's budget by using the state's rainy day fund and federal stimulus money to fill the budget hole that remained after a 10 percent cut to most state agencies.
The governor, who is term-limited and entering the final year of his last term, warned lawmakers not to cut education funding. He noted that the state recently boosted teacher pay and, for the first time, covered the entire cost of teachers' health insurance.
"Our responsibility to our students is sacred, and our progress in schools has been tremendous. I will not tolerate any effort to cut teacher pay or siphon resources from our classrooms, our students or our future," he said.