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
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
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. …