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Save Our Budget launches in city

A coalition of state and local residents was in Lawton Tuesday to stir community interest in the state budget crisis.

Lawton was the inaugural site for Save Our Budget's series of community meetings centered on its Blueprint for a Better Budget. SOS is a non-partisan coalition of organizations whose membership ranges from teachers and other state employees to those interested in mental health and state policy. Despite their diversity, members share a common goal: bringing state residents into the discussion to find solutions to Oklahoma's budget.

Amber England, executive director of Stand For Children (a coalition member), helped provide the guidance for Tuesday's meeting at Unity Lawton Center, ending the meeting with a list of actions residents could take. They ranged from directing support to legislative candidates to contacting sitting legislators and demanding action on the budget.

Local effects of crisis

England and David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said the state's budget crisis is having a dire effect on Oklahoma communities, and several Lawtonians shared their stories to illustrate that point.

David Ducre, a senior political science major at Cameron University, said he started his college career at Cameron, where he was on scholarship before transferring. Family obligations brought him back to Lawton and he returned to Cameron to resume his education. Nothing in Decre's life had changed that should have affected his scholarship eligibility, but something else had: there was no money in the state budget for scholarships.

"I can't get my scholarship back," Ducre said, saying he is working two jobs and taking out loans to pay the cost of his education.

Onreka Johnson, the City Council representative-elect for Ward 7 and someone who works with young people and others in need, said she has seen the results of budget cuts first-hand. Noting that the Unity Lawton Center typically sees 300-400 people a week who need food and clothing, Johnson said a majority of those residents don't have health insurance and it's difficult to watch those people walk away, knowing there is little that can be done about it.

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