State Treasurer Scott Meacham told reporters today that the news concerning Oklahoma’s revenue is “not very good, but it could be much, much worse.”
The Oklahoma Public Employees Association attended the Capitol press conference, and also told reporters that state employees cannot face any additional cuts.
“We want to re-iterate that RIFS and furloughs are not an option,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. “Too often state employees have born the brunt of economic turndowns. State employees are facing financial difficulties just like everyone else. They are already some of the lowest-paid workers around.”
The state treasurer issued a press release today, saying the national recession is catching up to Oklahoma, and the state could see a shortfall during the new fiscal year.
“We haven’t seen the bottom yet,” Meacham said. “Revenues are continuing to drop. I have been in discussion with the Governor and legislative leaders about where we go from here,” he said.
Meacham also said the state began planning for the economic downturn early last year, so Oklahoma is very well-postured to get through this. But, he added, state agencies need to begin looking at ways of making deeper cuts.
OPEA stressed to reporters that if agencies are being forced to make cuts, those same cuts need to apply to private companies as well. “OPEA expects contracts with private prisons and other service providers to be cut before state employees are RIF’d or furloughed,” Zearley said. “Many of these corporations are making a profit from state contracts. Their profit should be cut before our livelihood.”
Meacham stopped short of saying the Rainy Day Fund could be tapped. He said it’s too early to tell whether the Governor will access the $600 million dollar fund, but it’s an option if the situation indeed continues to worsen.
“We have known for some time the budget situation is at a crisis level,” Zearley said. “OPEA continues to ask agencies to curb all unnecessary spending, including travel, cutting state contracts and making sure services to all Oklahomans remain in-tact.”