From A Deficit To A Surplus; What Is Going On In Oklahoma?
OKLAHOMA CITY - Just a few months ago the state was dealing with a $1.3 billion budget deficit. Now the state says it’s trying to figure out how to spend a $140 million budget surplus. So, what gives?
One of the many programs provided by Sunbeam Family Services in Oklahoma City, is an emergency homeless shelter for the elderly. Thursday, Sunbeam learned their funding from the state would be slashed by $50,000.
"So without our services they would be sleeping on the streets, in their car, they would not have the food that they need. Perhaps, medical care,” said Erin Engelke of Sunbeam Family Services.
The cuts to Sunbeam and other agencies happened, even as state leaders debate what to do with a $141-million surplus. That surplus is the result of the state making cuts that ran too deep.
State Auditor Gary Jones said the problem is, it’s hard to estimate how much money the state has to spend when the state does such a lousy job of keeping track of tax credits.
"We don't have control of these tax credits,” said Jones. “People are getting tax credits, earning tax credits. We don't know who they are. We don't know how much they are. And we have no idea when they're going to cash them in."
This year, with the drop in oil prices, a lot of owners of underperforming oil wells cashed in on tax credits at the worst possible time for the state.
"You have a downfall in the economy. They end up cashing them in at probably the worst possible time when revenues are dropping and state agencies are having to cut back,” said Jones.
Representative Richard Morrissette (D) Oklahoma City said he agrees with the governor that a special legislative session should be called to discuss whether to return the surplus to individual agencies, and to fix the problems with the state’s tax credits.
"I mean what's the deal here?” Morrissette asked. “We have a budget in any event because of their miscalculations with overuse of tax credits, tax subsidies. By the way, I don't know if you knew this or not, but we pay for some the Thunder basketball salaries. I mean c'mon. This needs to stop."