Seems like we just adjourned the 2010 session, but the 2011 legislative session is underway. We began the day in our various committees before convening in the Senate chambers to take care of some business. We then convened for a joint session in the House Chambers to hear Governor Fallin’s first State of the State address.
Overall, I thought the Governor’s speech was upbeat and positive. However, I thought she was a little vague on providing details as to how we are going to overcome the $600 million deficit we more than likely will be facing. I’m anxious to get to work and see how we’re going to address our budget problem.
We have yet another tough session in front of us and we’re going to have to be tough when making decisions as to where cuts need to be made. Unfortunately, while the economy is improving, it’s not picking up fast enough to help us this session. We won’t have the official budget numbers until the State Equalization Board meets in mid-February. The Legislature will then use that information to begin crafting the new budget.
In December, the State Equalization Board approved the Tax Commission’s revenue estimate which was that the Legislature will have $6.1 billion to appropriate for the next fiscal year. Last session, we passed a $6.7 billion budget, so those estimates are $600 million less than the current budget.
The main reason for the drastic difference is that last year the Legislature was able to use federal stimulus money, Rainy Day funds and money from increased fees. This session, we won’t have any stimulus money or state savings so some tough decisions are going to have to be made in order to balance the budget. Unfortunately, this may mean further cuts for state agencies. But just like families all across the state who have had to cut back during these hard economic times, our government is going to have to continue to do so as well.