M. Scott Carter

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

Facing a budget hole of $611.3 million, Oklahoma lawmakers are considering taking money from the Constitutional Reserve Fund, or as it’s commonly called, the “Rainy Day Fund.” Currently, the Rainy Day Fund has a balance of $535.2 million.

The Legislature could take close to 61 percent, or about $326 million. Roughly $191 million would automatically be available. Another $133.8 million, which is 25 percent of the fund, would be available if the Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin declared an emergency.

An emergency is being considered despite the fact that the State Equalization Board certified enough revenue growth in December to allow the next wave of income tax cuts to go into effect.

House Budget Chairman Earl Sears

House Budget Chairman Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said he didn’t expect an emergency to be declared.

“That possibility exists,” Sears said. “However, I don’t believe we will take that much money from the Rainy Day Fund. I expect we’ll take less than that because we want to leave the bulk (of the fund) in tact for the future.”

Oklahoma’s revenue picture continues to remain murky. According to State Treasurer Ken Miller, gross revenue collections for the past twelve months ending in March 2015 were $12.08 billion, which was 4.3 percent higher than collections for the previous 12-month period. Yet revenue from the oil and gas industry is trending down. Total March collections were almost $28 million less than in March of last year, Miller said, and were “pushed downward primarily by a 48 percent drop in oil and natural gas gross production receipts.”

Lawmakers have until May 29 to finalize a budget.

Note: This story was updated at 3:49 p.m. on April 6.

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