Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Revolving Funds May Be Tapped to Balance Oklahoma Budget

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Revolving Funds May Be Tapped to Balance Oklahoma Budget

Article excerpt

If their actions this session are any indication of the future, Oklahoma lawmakers could be moving toward tapping more of the state's many revolving funds to help backfill a predicted $500 million shortfall in the budget.

With some estimates showing more than $1.2 billion available in state revolving fund accounts, lawmakers - along with Gov. Mary Fallin - are taking a second look at a normally little-used revenue stream in hopes of balancing the state budget. Not generally a part of the Legislature's appropriation process, state agency revolving funds are often established for a certain function or program and by law can be used only for those functions.

"These are nonappropriated funds for a set purpose," said former state Rep. Ken Miller. Miller, who was elected state treasurer in the fall of 2010, said revolving funds can carry over money from year to year, while an agency's normal funds must be spent by the end of the fiscal year.

"That's the primary difference," he said. "Revolving funds allow you to carry over money from one year to the next. But they were designed with a set purpose in mind."

This year, faced with a $500 million budget hole, Fallin called for using $100 million from the state Transportation Department's $159 million revolving fund. That fund, documents show, was established to help cover the cost of repairing and replacing county roads and bridges. Fallin's budget calls for the funds to be replaced with a $100 million bond issue.

"One component of the FY-2012 budget is a transfer of $100 million from the State Transportation Fund to the special Cash Fund for appropriation to other critical government services," the governor's budget said. "The Department of Transportation will be given authorization to issue a bond through (the) Oklahoma Capital Improvement Authority for $100 million."

This week, lawmakers returned to the idea for a second time, passing legislation that allowed the Department of Corrections to take $5.25 million from its Industries Revolving Fund. That fund, DOC Director Justin Jones said, is used to operate a program where inmates operate farms and make furniture. He said the program employs about 100 prison workers. …

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