Board Approves $611 Million State Budget Shortfall

Tuesday, February 17th 2015, 6:11 pm
By: News 9

Revenue for next year's state budget was approved Tuesday and was far less than expected.

The total deficit was more than double what was estimated two months ago.

The state's budget deficit hadn't been that high in nearly four years, and many state officials pointed at oil and gas.

The reason behind the budget shortfall may be best explained through numbers from the State Board of Equalization.

Governor Mary Fallin along with other members of the board approved just more than $6.6 billion for appropriations in the next fiscal year.

A number that is more than $611 million less than the current fiscal year; an overall 8.5 percent drop.

"This is not comfortable for the state of Oklahoma but I'm confident we'll get through it," said Gov. Fallin.

The $611 million shortfall was a bombshell compared to expectations in December, when the board estimated the shortfall would be half that at just less than $300 million.

But that number quickly grew as oil and gas prices dropped and the state missing out on the industry's income tax revenue.

"The truth is there's been a number of Oklahomans', literally thousands, that have lost their jobs because of the pull back in the oil and gas sector and the energy sector and that's a big part of it," said Jeff Hickman, Speaker of the House.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman said he plans to have everything on the table to manage the deficit.

The board suggested pulling dollars from the state's revolving fund and maybe even the rainy day fund, but the only guarantee was state agencies will see cuts.

"We're going to prioritize our spending on important areas like education, health human services public safety and certainly infrastructure issues but in the meantime departments should be prepared to take a cut," said Gov. Fallin.

Speaker Hickman said he also plans to address the billions of dollars that don't go through the state budget, as well as nearly $2 billion worth of tax credits and exemptions.

The next fiscal year begins on July 1.