Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Okla. Gov. Henry Seeks to Raise Cap on Constitutional Reserve Fund

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Okla. Gov. Henry Seeks to Raise Cap on Constitutional Reserve Fund

Article excerpt

Urging them to do the responsible thing, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry has asked state lawmakers to raise the cap on the constitutional reserve fund.

Henry made the call Tuesday, during an afternoon press conference at the state Capitol.

"Under our constitution, our Rainy Day fund can only have a maximum of 10 percent of general revenue collections," Henry said. "In 2006 I proposed that the Legislature submit another question to the vote of the people to raise the constitutional cap of the Rainy Day fund from 10 percent to 15 percent of appropriations. Unfortunately, the Legislature disagreed with me."

Had lawmakers raised the cap then, Henry said, the state would have about $900 million in its reserve fund instead of the $600 million currently available.

"If we had taken the action I advocated back in 2006, we would have more money in our savings account to respond to today's crisis," he said. "It would not solve all of our problems, but it would give us more room to maneuver as we balance the budget and attempt to protect core services."

Henry said voters did the right thing when they established a Rainy Day fund in 1985, but the 10-percent cap prevents the state from saving enough money for the kind of emergency it's presently facing.

"It's never a bad idea to save money," Henry said.

The governor's proposal drew praise from the chairman of the Senate's Education Committee. State Sen. John Ford, R-Bartlesville, said he was encouraged by Henry's announcement.

Ford, the Senate's GOP Caucus chair, filed legislation to raise the cap in 2007.

"When I first filed this legislation for the 2007 session, the economy was good and there wasn't a lot of interest in raising the cap," Ford said in a media statement. "Obviously, that's all changed now, and I'm pleased to see the governor has voiced his support for this measure. I'm only sorry there wasn't more support earlier on for this concept."

Echoing Henry, state Treasurer Scott Meacham said reserve funds are a key tool to deal with revenue downturns.

"The real question is what are you going to learn from the current event and how are you going to deal with future downturns," Meacham said. …

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