Thursday, December 20, 2018

Senate leaders, House Dems comment on $600M budget surplus estimate

Senate Pro Tem, Appropriations chair comment on Board of Equalization revenue estimate

OKLAHOMA CITY – Senate leadership on Wednesday were cautiously optimistic about next year’s budget after a state board certified an estimated $612 million in new funding for the upcoming budget year.

However, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson both said lawmakers and the public should not set unattainable expectations for next year.

“Our financial picture is improving in Oklahoma thanks to a recovering economy and tough choices made by the Legislature,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “I’m optimistic about 2019 but want expectations to be realistic. Even though the preliminary estimate shows growing revenue, there are many existing obligations and priorities heading into next year. Senate Republicans will keep our commitment to teachers and want to build on the huge investment made in education last year. There are other critical needs the Legislature will prioritize and balance as we work on the budget.”

Senator Thompson, R-Okemah, said the new revenues will be helpful but won’t cover the growing list of budget requests from state agencies.

“It’s great news to anticipate growing revenue coming into the state, but we can’t overlook the expenses that must be covered. Before the first budget bill is even considered, the state has obligations like bond indebtedness, the ad valorem reimbursement fund, and replacing lost federal dollars that went to our state’s teaching hospitals,” Thompson said. “Agencies continue to hand in their budget requests for next year. Not every request is in but the total amount of budget increases being sought by agencies already exceeds the total amount of estimated new revenue. Senate Republicans have been at work on the next year's budget since August and we’ll keep working hard to make sure we’re investing those new dollars in ways that reap a great return and provide maximum benefit for Oklahoma.”

The Board of Equalization is comprised of the governor, lieutenant governor, state treasurer, attorney general, state superintendent of education, the state auditor, and the secretary of agriculture. The board meets to approve the certified amount of revenue available to spend in the state budget.

House Minority Leader Virgin Responds to Board of Equalization Revenue Estimate 

OKLAHOMA CITY – House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, issued the following statement in response to the Board of Equalization estimate released yesterday: 

“The projected growth is encouraging,” said Leader Virgin. “If nothing else, it shows that the much needed revenue raising measures from last session are working. This estimate is a product of the bipartisan effort to pass HB1010xx last session. It is because of those efforts that we are finally in a situation where we can start to reinvest in core services like education and healthcare. It is important to note, though, that this is only the first step -- we are still over $800 million below pre-recession funding levels when adjusted for inflation. We do agree with House Republican leadership that this surplus shouldn’t be taken for granted. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past by passing frivolous tax cuts while simultaneously underfunding education, corrections and other vital state agencies. It seems some of our new colleagues on the right may agree with us on this issue, and we look forward to working with them in the upcoming session to properly fund state government.”


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