All is Not OK at the Oklahoma DPS—Major Driver License Center Closures Could Be En Route

By: Bridget Clerkin April 7, 2017
Oklahoma's state budget issue may force the closure of 25 driver's license testing sites.
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Getting your driver’s license is a rite of passage, but if Oklahoma’s new budget cuts go into effect, it may be considered more of a test of patience.

The OK Department of Public Safety (DPS) is facing a possible 15% budget cut this year, leaving the department scrambling for ways to plug the monetary holes—with plans that include potentially shuttering as many as 25 driver’s license testing sites throughout the state.

That figure represents more than half of Oklahoma’s 36 current testing centers, where first-time license applicants must undergo vision and skills exams before they’re officially given the right to drive. The sites also handle commercial driver’s licenses, license transfers, and state ID cards.

While the state maintains a law on the books specifying that the testing centers can be no more than 100 miles apart, the distance between the remaining 11 centers could be cutting it very close—especially for rural license seekers most likely to see their local testing sites closed should the cuts go through.

Currently, the sites being eyed for shutdown include the testing centers at Ada, Edmond, Norman, Stillwater, Miami, and Grove.

Currently, the sites being eyed for shutdown include the testing centers at Ada, Edmond, Norman, Stillwater, Miami, and Grove.

And it’s not just first-time drivers who would suffer from the budgetary shortfalls—employees of the offices would be laid off, with other DPS workers being issued four-week furloughs and the department’s Highway Patrol motorcycle division being cut entirely, OK DPS Commissioner Michael Thompson announced earlier this month.

Those who remain at the licensing centers would likely be flooded with the additional visitors—and work—that come with providing a much scarcer service in the state, at a time when the ability to hire more help would be minimal at best.

The budgetary issue stems from a greater monetary problem facing the state. Oklahoma is currently dealing with a huge hole in its budget for fiscal year 2017—reported at anywhere from $870 million to $900 million. Depending on the figure, that would translate to anywhere from 11% to 13% less money for the state to issue to its various departments and agencies when the fiscal year kicks off on July 1.

The Oklahoma legislature is currently debating ways to make up for that deficit, and at least 52 state agencies have been targeted for cuts, including the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Education Department, the state’s Health Care Authority and its Corrections Department.

While Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has said she would be willing to explore other ways to drum up finances for the state, including authorizing some tax increases, it seems that in the end it’s the state-run departments—and the residents they serve—that may pay the price.

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