OPEA Continues Push for Statewide Discretionary Spending

New budget figures have been released by the State Treasurer’s office, showing a 1.42 percent cut for June. OPEA monitors revenue on a month-by-month basis, and as early as this spring called on the legislature to implement mandatory discretionary spending throughout all state agencies.

“Looking out for state employees is our job, that’s what we do,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “We began looking at the budget numbers months ago, and immediately went into action calling on agencies to curb spending and suspend unnecessary travel.”

State revenue collections failed to meet estimates for a fifth consecutive month in May, forcing state officials to declare a revenue shortfall as annual collections fell below the amount needed to meet appropriated funding levels, State Treasurer Scott Meacham announced Thursday.

The state constitution requires the legislature to appropriate no more than 95 percent of the state’s estimated revenues. If actual revenue collections are less than the amount appropriated, there is a “shortfall” and the constitution requires that all appropriation allocations be reduced across-the-board by the amount of the shortfall. The last such shortfall occurred six years ago during Fiscal Year 2003.

Current revenue collections have fallen below 95 percent of the estimate by $6.8 million or 1.42 percent of June spending allocations. Preliminary reports show general revenue fund collections for May were $357.1 million. That amount is: $136.5 million or 27.7 percent below the prior year; and $99.8 million or 21.8 percent below the estimate.

“Now our projections have proved accurate and agencies will be faced with a significant shortfall this month,” Zearley said. “In these challenging economic times, Oklahomans need state services even more. We must make sure each agency has the funds and staff to operate and function effectively. The unemployed need help finding jobs, veterans and the disabled will continue to require care, and citizens must be protected from disease and pathogens in food and water. That’s why it’s so important to make sure our agencies are up and running and fully staffed.”

Though state legislators have gone home for the summer, OPEA urges its members to continue their interaction.

“We hope our members will call their representatives and let them know how vital their services are. If it means dipping into the Rainy Day Fund, they must take action to make sure state services are not cut,” Zearley said.

“State employees are already carrying heavy caseloads, using antiquated equipment and working in offices built at the beginning of the last century. Any additional cuts could be devastating to the citizens of Oklahoma,” he said.

“Now more than ever, state employees need to get involved in their association and become members of OPEA, giving us a stronger voice at the Capitol,” Zearley said.

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