- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Budget cuts of 7 percent ordered for Oklahoma’s public schools and other state services likely were deeper than necessary, and the state will finish the fiscal year on June 30 with surplus revenue that could be allocated back to agencies, state finance officials confirmed on Monday.

Oklahoma currently has a general revenue fund surplus of $166 million with collections through May, an amount almost certain to decline once June collections are reconciled. But Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger declined to speculate how much money will be left over until all revenue has been collected for the month of June.

“What if (June collections) are off by 30 percent?” Doerflinger said. “It would be irresponsible for me to try to suggest what that number is until the revenues are in and the reconciliation occurs.”

Doerflinger made the comments Monday following a meeting of the State Board of Equalization, a panel led by Gov. Mary Fallin that determines each year how much revenue is available for the Legislature to spend. The board approved changes to next fiscal year’s projected revenue collections based on laws passed during the recently concluded legislative session.

Faced with slumping revenue collections amid a downturn in the energy industry, Doerflinger was forced to order spending reductions of 3 percent in December to agency budgets. In March, he ordered a second round of cuts totaling 4 percent.

“I had people telling me we should go to 5 percent,” Doerflinger said. “We made the cut we felt was most appropriate at the time based on the information that we had and how collections were coming in.”

Once the exact amount of surplus is determined, Doerflinger said the money likely will be reallocated to state agencies based on how much they were originally appropriated. The Legislature or Gov. Fallin also could call a special session to determine how to reallocate any surplus, but Fallin said it was too early to speculate about that.

“We’re still looking at legal opinions about what we can do with that money,” the governor said.

Fallin departs on Tuesday for a trip to New York, where she plans to meet with some of the nation’s top credit rating agencies about how the state closed a $1.3 billion hole in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

In a report released earlier this month, Moody’s Investors Service gave the state negative marks for drawing down its reserves and slashing funding to higher education in the $6.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2017.

Joining Fallin on the trip will be Doerflinger, state Treasurer Ken Miller, House Speaker-designate Charles McCall and Senate Appropriations Committee vice chairman Sen. Greg Treat.


Follow Sean Murphy at www.twitter.com/apseanmurphy

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