The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 18, 2014

Gov. Fallin, Oklahoma lawmakers have less money to appropriate to agencies

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma lawmakers were facing a tough task already, and their job got even tougher Tuesday.

That’s when they found out the amount of money they have to appropriate to state agencies is even less than they first thought.

Gov. Mary Fallin drew up her executive budget plan based on having $170 million less to spend for the fiscal year that begins July 1 than what was spent for the current fiscal year. On Tuesday, the Board of Equalization met and determined there actually will be $188 million less to spend than there was last year.

Overall, lawmakers will have $6.9 billion in revenue to appropriate.

Most agencies already were looking at having 5 percent less for the coming fiscal year. Now, they will have to plan for a little less.

In an odd twist, state tax collections actually are up. However, for various reasons, according to Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger, there’s less money in the general fund, which is the main operating fund for state government.

The reasons for the decline include a tax incentive for some types of oil and gas drilling, Doerflinger said, and funds being set aside for transportation improvements and college scholarships.

In spite of the news, Fallin remains committed to her plan to cut the top income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent. If revenue continues to climbs, the rate would fall to 4.85 percent in 2016.

We just ask lawmakers to look at all of this carefully. This situation is not something to take lightly, and we hope lawmakers fully understand the ramifications of their decisions.

We also hope there is no late rush to pass the budget in the waning days of the session.

That has happened in the past, and that’s a time when the best decisions might not be made.