MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 12, 2013

Revenue collections continue to fall short


Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY — Collections to the main operating fund used to pay for state government in Oklahoma continue to trail the official estimate, finance officials reported Wednesday, a trend that could lead to budget cuts for state agencies if it continues.

General revenue fund collections in November trailed the official estimate used to write the current year’s state budget by nearly 8 percent, according to Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger.

Doerflinger said non-economic factors, such as tax rebates for certain types of drilling and the diversion of $60 million this year toward Capitol renovations, have led to diminishing general revenue collections.

“We’re still seeing encouraging economic expansion as a state even though revenue for government appropriations is trailing somewhat,” Doerflinger said in a statement. “This has been the trend so far this year.”

For the first five months of the current fiscal year, collections to the general revenue fund have trailed the official estimate by about 6.5 percent. If collections continue to trail the estimate and a revenue shortfall occurs, Doerflinger could be forced to order cuts to agency budgets. But he said it’s too early to predict whether that will happen.

“The next few months will say a lot about what the state budget picture looks like for the near future,” Doerflinger said.

The Oklahoma Legislature is only authorized to spend 95 percent of the revenue that’s available, and the remaining 5 percent is used to help make up for any potential budget shortfall. That cushion for the current fiscal year is about $294 million, finance officials reported.

The Oklahoma Board of Equalization, which determines how much revenue is available for the Legislature to spend, will meet next week for its first look at how much revenue is available to spend in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The amount certified by the board on Dec. 19 will be used by Gov. Mary Fallin to prepare her executive budget, which is often used as a starting point in budget negotiations with legislative leaders.

Fallin has warned state agency heads to look for ways to save money in next year’s budget amid lackluster collections and more than $60 million in mandatory health care spending the state will be forced to pay next year. Oklahoma’s share of funding for Medicaid is increasing as a result of an overall increase in the state’s per-capita income, and state health officials also predict a sharp increase in Medicaid enrollees under mandates for coverage under the federal health care law.