- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Gov. Mary Fallin’s lead budget negotiator on Monday outlined a 2016 executive budget proposal he said realistically acknowledges Oklahoma’s current shortfall while keeping spending the same or higher for such priorities as health, education and prisons.

Preston Doerflinger, secretary of finance and director of the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services, unveiled details of the budget proposal shortly after Fallin outlined her legislative goals in a State of the State speech that opened the 2015 Oklahoma Legislature.



The budgets of five state agencies would increase by a total of $81 million in Fallin’s proposed state budget.

Budget increases would go to the state Department of Education, $25 million; the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid provider, $20 million; the Department of Human Services, $16 million; the Department of Corrections, $15 million; and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, $5 million.

In addition, $13.1 million will be set aside for first-year obligations for a 10-year, $120 million bond issue to repair and renovate the state Capitol building. The budgets of 10 other agencies would remain unchanged from the current year to maintain core government services.



The budgets of 55 other state agencies would receive reductions of up to 6.25 percent due to a projected 4.1 percent budget shortfall. That would generate about $37 million to be appropriated to meet other needs.

Fallin’s budget also does not appropriate funds for pay raises for the state’s public school teachers in spite of new Superintendent of Education Joy Hofmeister’s call for higher teacher salaries to help alleviate a shortage of teachers in the state’s public schools.

Last month, Hofmeister unveiled a five-year plan to give Oklahoma teachers a $5,000 pay raise. Oklahoma has about 50,000 public school teachers and other certified personnel.



Fallin’s proposed executive budget calls for a variety of adjustments to the state’s budgeting process to free up more taxpayer dollars for pressing needs.

Doerflinger said the primary source of discretionary spending by the Legislature - the general revenue fund - is growing smaller because of the increasing cost of mandatory off-the-top apportionments.

“The flexibility of the Legislature to appropriate those funds has diminished,” he said.

State agencies currently have more than $900 million in revolving funds that are used to finance their operations without appropriations limits. Among other things, the proposed budget recommends that $300 million be transferred from revolving funds to be appropriated elsewhere and that the funds be scrutinized to determine if additional funds can be tapped without creating service interruptions at the agencies.



Doerflinger said the state’s constitutional Rainy Day reserve fund contains $535 million, part of which could be tapped in the event of a revenue shortfall or if an emergency is declared.

Figures provided by Doerflinger’s office indicate that about $201 million could be tapped in case of a revenue failure and about $134 million in an emergency declaration.

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