OPEA has learned today that agency cuts are being considered to offset the gloomy budget numbers adopted by the Board of Equalization.
“The talk in the halls of the legislature is that state agencies are being looked at for budget cuts,” said OPEA Deputy Director Scott Barger. “There has been no consensus on the number or whether the cuts will be just for some targeted agencies, but we have a very uneasy feeling that this signals a bad trend early in session.”
OPEA is concerned those discussions about agency cuts are very premature and that other avenues of funding could be utilized.
“There are many options for squeezing the budget and we want to make sure that the legislature is considering all the options before deciding upon an old, worn out model,’ said Barger. “The one thing that seems to be constant at the Capitol is that Oklahoma is quick to balance the budget on the backs of state employees.”
OPEA is also concerned about the rising price of fuel.
“Gasoline prices have jumped over 20 cents in the past four weeks, according to AAA Oklahoma. The state’s average for self-serve gasoline now stands at $3.02 per gallon,” Barger said. “While this signals that crude prices are beginning to increase, which is good for Oklahoma and its budget situation, state employees who have to pay more at the pump are being hurt most of all.”
Barger believes there is a solution for the budget shortfall.
“OPEA hopes that legislative leaders would look to the Constitutional Reserve Fund before considering cutting state agencies,” he said.