Shortfall in Revenues Expected by Bellmon / Task Force to Search for Cost-Cutting Methods

Article excerpt

A shortfall in state revenues will occur this fiscal year, governor-elect Henry Bellmon predicted Monday, and he has sent a financial task force to state agencies and departments in search of cost-cutting methods for next year's budget.

Bellmon did not say how much or when the shortfall will come. But the man he has designated to be the next director of state finances, Dr. Lex Holmes, was quoted Monday in The Dallas Morning News as saying he wouldn't be surprised if the shortfall reached $300 million for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1987.

"He doesn't have a number yet," Bellmon said in response to questions about Holmes' statement.

"There will be a shortfall of revenues - most likely," he earlier had told members of volunteer "survey" teams. The teams will audit the state government for information to help the incoming administration with its budget preparations.

Money available for the budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 1987, will be certified Dec. 1 by the Oklahoma Equalization Board, Bellmon also said.

The date is an apparent compromise. Gov. George Nigh said last Thursday he would prefer to wait as long as as possible before calling the meeting. Later that same day, however, Nigh agreed to the Dec. 1 date. Bellmon wanted an early meeting for a guide in preparing next year's budget.

Legally, the board has to certify the budget between Nov. 24 and Dec. 6.

Bellmon has requested a two-week delay in the time he will submit the budget to the Oklahoma Legislature. He proposed to submit it Jan. 26 in letters to both Speaker of the House Jim Barker and Senate Pro Tempore Rodger Randle.

Bellmon expects to find state programs that can be eliminated to reduce the budget without making the across the board cuts that have been made to deal with past shortfalls.

State appropriations increased more than 120 percent over the period of the state's oil boom, from $1.1 billion in the 1978-1979 fiscal year to $2.46 billion last year. This year it totaled $2.19 billion.

Taking inflation into account, plus 5 percent growth, there is "still a fairly healthy growth," Bellmon said. His task force will try to identify areas of excess growth.

"We're not going to have across-the-board budget cuts," he said. "We're trying to do it surgically."

Nine teams of people from private business, retired state officials and academic experts are charged by Bellmon with studying the budget in areas of: education and vocational-technical education, higher education, transportation, human services and veterans affairs, corrections and public safety, Oklahoma Tax Commission, commerce and employment security, health and mental health, and public affairs, personnel management and state finance. …

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