At a Capitol press conference Tuesday, State Treasurer Scott Meacham said there is good news and bad news in the budget shortfall.
“The good news is we brought in enough money in December to make allocations for January,” Meacham said. “The not so good news is that this is the 12th consecutive month the state has fallen behind in collections.”
December revenue collections are sufficient to fund allocations to state agencies for the month at a 10 percent reduction. Preliminary reports show General Revenue Fund collections in December are $402.3 million. That amount is $165 million, or 29 percent below the prior year; and, $178 million or nearly 31 percent below the estimate.
“We were hopeful revenues might begin to improve slightly; instead they continued their downward slide,” Meacham said. “Governor Henry and legislative leadership are discussing the best course of action to balance the state’s budget by the end of the fiscal year, minimize service reductions and lay the course for funding next fiscal year. Continued cuts are a certainty. How much deeper, if any, they will have to go is the question at this point.”
The OPEA issued a press statement reiterating the need for across-the-board cuts.
“Any time Oklahoma has a budget problem, the cuts seem to fall on the backs of state employees,” said OPEA spokesman Mark Beutler. “Agencies have been cut all they can cut without it starting to affect our citizens. It’s time we make sure common and higher education face the same cuts, as well as private contractors who make money off the state. Is it any less important protecting our children than it is educating them? Our elderly and our veterans also need our help.
“So far it’s state employees who have faced the most severe cuts, with many of our dedicated public servants being RIFd or furloughed,” Beutler said. “Now it’s time we take a look outside the box. Whether that means cutting funds to education or to contractors, consolidating school districts, we are saying enough is enough. State agencies, public employees and our citizens can’t afford services to be reduced any further.”
Meacham says in the fall he was optimistic the end might be in sight, but that optimism has faded.
“We’re not seeing the bottom yet. We were hopeful that might have been the case but so far there’s no end in sight. I do believe the next six months will be better than the last six months. However, I have no objective data yet to support that,” Meacham said.