- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 17, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma’s revenue projections have increased enough over the last year to trigger an income tax cut in 2016, state finance officials announced Wednesday.

Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger announced the estimate for general revenue fund collections for the upcoming fiscal year is about $60 million more than the estimate made in February 2013, thus triggering the cut. A seven-member board led by Gov. Mary Fallin will meet Thursday to certify the final figures.

“Oklahomans are getting relief at the gas pump this year, and next year they’ll be getting more relief through a lower personal income tax,” Doerflinger said in a statement.

The cut will drop Oklahoma’s top personal income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, beginning in January 2016. Doerflinger says the average tax filer will save about $85 a year, while the cut is expected to cost the state about $147 million annually.

If revenues keep rising, a second cut to 4.85 percent is possible in 2018.

The State Board of Equalization also is expected to consider an estimate of $6.9 billion in available revenue that Fallin will use to build her budget proposal for fiscal year 2016. That amount is about $43 million less than what was approved for the governor’s executive budget last year and nearly $300 million less than the Legislature appropriated for the current state budget.

“There isn’t more money, but there is adequate money,” Doerflinger said. “We have a big enough pie and our job now is slicing it right to meet the needs of the day with the funds available.”

The board will meet again in February to determine the final amount that the Legislature will have to appropriate.

“If oil prices continue sliding and the energy sector shrinks, there may be less revenue in February than there is today,” he said.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman echoed Doerflinger’s sentiments, warning state agency directors to prepare for flat or reduced budgets.

“Like Oklahoma families and businesses do every day, state agencies should be making preparations now, in their current budgets, for fewer dollars in next year’s budget,” said Hickman, R-Fairview.

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