Recession Strikes State Budget


Wednesday, December 17th 2008, 11:14 pm
By: News 9


By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A decline in tax revenue will likely lead to state budget cuts, lawmakers said.

Early indications show 2009's budgets could come up short by millions of dollars, which is why Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City) is calling for cutting the fat.

"This is going to be a serious problem for the citizens of Oklahoma," Morrissette said.

He's already warned many of his fellow legislators.

"Let's start acting reasonably," Morrissette said. "It's going to be a rough session."

The strain will not only hit the lawmakers, but Oklahoma residents as well. The Tax Commission is predicting a decline in state tax revenue, which makes up a large portion of the overall budget that currently stands at $7.1 billion.

If the predictions pan out, lawmakers will have an estimated $250 million less to spend next year.

"The state faces a tighter budget next fiscal year," Oklahoma Treasurer Scott Meacham said. "You got to look at our main sources of revenue...We depend a lot on oil and gas revenue and those have been very strong in our budget the last few years."

With oil and gas prices down, the consumers are happy, but the citizens may soon be feeling the opposite.

"We've always said that we thought if energy prices stayed down, and the economy stayed where it was it'd be a much tighter budget year for 2010," Meacham said.

Morrissette said the state can avoid cutting critical services by stopping wasteful spending. If that doesn't happen, some agencies may be forced to make difficult choices.

"What this means is there is going to be less state revenue, which means there is going to be less state services, government," Morrissette said. "If there are going to be layoffs, I suggest we start at the top at the administrator level and not at the service providers in the middle and at the bottom."

Lawmakers will receive final numbers sometime in February when they will begin debating what to cut from next fiscal year which begins on July 1, 2009.