February 2, 2015

Budget Gap Looms Over Session’s Opening Day

Print More

CAPITOL WATCH

State Capitol Photo 1

M. Scott Carter

M. Scott Carter

M. Scott Carter reports on politics, legislation and other issues from the State Capitol.

 

 

 

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin told members of the Oklahoma Legislature Monday that she wanted to see improvements in the state’s health, public safety and education systems.

Fallin made the call during her 45-minute State of the State Address. She also urged lawmakers to use one year of their two-year legislative cycle for budget issues. Despite record revenue collections last year, Fallin said lawmakers have less money to spend this year than they did just a few years ago. A big issue is that a lot of funds are directed to specific purposes and thus not able to be legislatively appropriated.

Legislative leaders say they expect to face a $300 million budget hole for the 2016 fiscal year.

“Slowly but surely, elected representatives are losing the ability to guide state priorities and the flexibility they need to respond to changing circumstances,” the governor said. “My challenge to all of us is to reverse that trend and use this session to really unpack the way the state is spending its money.”

The governor also released her budget proposal Monday.

Preston Doerflinger, Fallin’s budget and finance secretary, said at a press conference the executive budget would include targeted spending increases: $25 million for common education, $16 million for the Department of Human Services, $20 million for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, $5 million for the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and $15 million for the Department of Corrections.

Several agencies, including the Departments of Health, Career Technology, and Public Safety would have flat budgets. The remaining state agencies would see their budgets cut by 6.25 percent.

Doerflinger said the governor’s budget would use about $300 million in state agency revolving funds to balance the budget, though he didn’t specify which agencies would have funds removed.

Lawmakers also have access to more $500 million in the state’s Rainy Day fund About $120 million of the Rainy Day fund could be used for the budget, Doerflinger said.

Doerflinger said he and members of the legislature would begin budget meetings Tuesday.