A double dose of bad news for state lawmakers.
The State Board of Equalization reported a revenue failure for the current fiscal year and a drop in funds for the next fiscal year. That means agencies will have to make serious cuts this year and taxes will likely go up next year.
“Our situation is dire,” Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger told the board.
He explained revenues are below projections for this year, causing a revenue failure.
“We have used tricks, as some people would like to call them, or gimmicks to make up some kind of gap, and frankly, we have exhausted all of those,” he said.
Doerflinger said the $39 million shortfall this year means there have to be cuts to seven core services, that include human services, mental health, corrections and education, or else.
“If you wanted to hold those seven agencies harmless you would eliminate funding for the rest of state government,” he said.
As for next fiscal year, the outlook is just as bleak.
The governor has proposed a billion dollars in new taxes; a move shunned by legislators and even led her lieutenant governor to step down from her cabinet.
“I’m perfectly aware that my budget is not a popular thing to do,” said Gov. Mary Fallin. “But I had to find 868 million dollars at that time of shortfall to be able to fill the budget gap.”
Republicans blame Democrats. Democrats blame Republicans.
"There's no need to find new revenue. We just need to restore the revenues that they've cut from public education, healthcare and public safety over the last decade,” House Minority Leader Scott Inman said. “We don't need to do as the governor proposed, raise taxes on the backs of working Oklahomans."
Fallin said Democrats still haven’t resented her with any ideas.
“They’re going to have to step up to the table and not lock up this group and demagogue and criticize the republicans that are in control without providing solutions and being a part of the solution,” she said.
“I don’t know how much more I can emphasize that the time for action is now. It’s not a game. We need, we need new revenue,” Doerflinger said.