State Agencies Should Prepare For Steeper Budget Cuts

Tuesday, February 16th 2016, 5:56 pm
By: Aaron Brilbeck

The State Board of Equalization met Tuesday to formally certify what Oklahoma lawmakers had already known: the state’s budget deficit is $1.1 billion, but with additional costs experts say the real number is closer to $1.3 billion. 

“Certainly the news today was not good,” Gov. Mary Fallin said. “We continue to see a prolonged lapsed in the price of a barrel of oil which is affecting Oklahoma’s economy.”

Secretary of Finance and Revenue Preston Doerflinger acknowledged there will be cuts similar to the 3 percent across the board cuts state agencies have already seen, but he won't speculate on the impact until the February tax revenue numbers come. 

“I really want to see those February numbers and I feel uncomfortable doing that at this time,” Doerflinger said. “Let me get the February numbers in and I don’t want to unnecessarily cause fear.”

So between now and then, the legislature can work to make cuts to reduce across the board cuts that would be made by the secretary of finance.

The legislature will also consider rolling back certain tax breaks. 

Lawmakers put off until next week voting on a bill that would stop income tax cuts in years when revenue failures are declared. 

The governor said, during these tough times, rolling back income tax breaks is not the answer. 

“Giving the middle class and the poor a tax break is a smart thing to do,” Fallin said. “Letting them keep more of their hard earned money is, especially when people are losing their jobs right now.”

The state’s secretary of finance said he should have the February revenue numbers in by mid-March.