Legislators Look to Tighten Budget

Friday, December 19th 2008, 7:56 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The economic crisis is taking its toll on Oklahoma revenues.

While Oklahoma may not be as bad off as other states, the news is still disturbing.

On Friday, state officials revealed some possible ways to tighten the belt for the next fiscal year.

It's not the best of times, but it's not the worst of times either.

State Treasurer Scott Meacham explained that the Legislature will have almost five percent less revenue to appropriate next year, which equates to $296 million less, mostly owing to revenue declines in oil and gas drilling.

Scott Meacham said compared to other states, a five percent drop isn't bad at all.

"We're not facing near the budget cuts, the revenue shortfalls that most other states are facing during this unparallel financial crisis," Meacham said.

Sales tax collections are up, along with corporate income taxes. Revenues overall are down, and the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee said state agencies must be prepared.

"My advice would be that all agencies start at any programs that they have that they could maybe reduce, and it will give us the opportunity to go back and look to see what programs we can reduce or cut back on," Senator Mike Johnson (R-Kingfisher) said.

Senator Johnson said it will be very difficult to meet the state Regents for Higher Education's request for $53 million more next year. The Regents wanted that amount so students wouldn't be asked to pay more tuition in the fall.

On Monday, the state Board of Equalization will certify the amount of money the Legislature will have to spend.