State Treasurer Scott Meacham said Tuesday at a Capitol press conference that March revenue collections topped prior year collections for the first time since December 2008, and exceeded the official estimate for a second consecutive month.
“What this tells me is that it looks like Oklahoma’s economy is finally on the mend,” Meacham said. “The past few months we have been seeing a ‘bottoming-out.’ Now we’re actually seeing improvement.”
Meacham said he is keeping a close eye on sales tax collections. “Sales taxes continue to lag behind the estimate and prior year, but we are hoping to see improvements as public confidence increases. My message to consumers with the economy rebounding is to start spending. Go shop at your favorite store, rejoin your health club,” Meacham said.
While the news is much better than a few months ago, Meacham says Oklahoma will still see the effect of budget cuts.
“It’s not nearly as bad as a quarter ago, but our year-to-date numbers are still negative so the cuts will continue,” Meacham told reporters. “State services have already been cut significantly. We will continue to try to hold harmless our core services like health, education and public safety.
“This is making us feel better about 2012,” Meacham said, “but it doesn’t really help on the 2011 budget which begins July 1.”
One reporter asked if Oklahoma is still headed to the poor house. “What these numbers tell us is that our stay in the poor house won’t be as long,” Meacham said.
Preliminary reports show General Revenue Fund collections in March were $401.3 million. That is: $6.4 million or 1.6 percent above the prior year and $81.4 million or 25.5 percent above the estimate.
“I think we can feel much better that it looks like we are going to end the fiscal year with a positive cash flow,” Meacham said.