State Budget Falls Short $612 Million

Tuesday, February 17th 2009, 4:51 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Governor Brad Henry says the stimulus bill will give Oklahoma some help, but it won't solve the state's budgetary woes.

The Governor got the official word Tuesday that the state is looking at a $612 million shortfall next year

Governor Henry says there will have to be lots of belt-tightening, but he hopes he can spare some areas of state government from any cuts.

The Legislature will have $612 million less to spend next year. Agencies will have to trim their budgets.

"I don't believe, at this time, it will be necessary to lay off workers or furloughs," Governor Brad Henry said. "That's my hope. That's my intention, but I can't say that with certainty right now."

The Governor also hopes to avoid budget cuts in medical care, public safety, transportation and education. That's what the state Superintendent of Public Instruction wanted to hear.

"The good news is we've got a governor who wants to protect education, and I think he's very committed to that," State Superintendent Sandy Garrett said.

The Governor also wants to avoid budget cuts in Higher Education. That will be a challenge.

"It's going to be a difficult year for higher education and every other agency," Representative Scott Martin (R-Norman) said. "$600 million is a lot of money."

But everyone on the Equalization Board knows times have been worse in the recent past.

The Governor says the budgetary situation was direr in 2003, and the state got through it.

Oklahoma is certainly better off than other states, especially than California, which has run up $42 billion in debts. Henry is calling up state agencies to find ways to save money, especially in energy use.

Because of the revenue shortfall, there will be no cut in the state's income tax rate next year.