Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Projects Tighter Budgets for Coming Year

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Projects Tighter Budgets for Coming Year

Article excerpt

The Oklahoma Legislture will have $126 million in new money available for appropriation for the fiscal year that begins July 1, according to a revenue forecast certified Monday by the State Board of Equalization.

"Because of pressing needs, this sets the stage for an extremely tight budget," said Jack White, state finance director.

"The estimated cost of financing House Bill 1017, the school reform measure, plus supplemental appropria- tion requests from other agencies, is greater than available growth revenues," White said.

"It is most important that agency directors seeking supplemental appropri- ations exercise all available measures to manage within their budget." "New" or "growth" money is the amount by which the budget increased from the past year. The 1991 Legislature had $3.4 billion to appropriate for the fiscal year that ends June 30. The 1992 Legislature will have $3.56 billion, up $126 million or 3.7 percent from the 1991 session.

"Although we are projecting a modest amount of growth in state revenues, it is very clear that in order for the governor and Legislature to fund their priorities, we will have to make significant cuts in other spending areas," White said.

"Again, fiscal 1993 (which begins July 1) is going to be an extremely tough budget year, especially if the outlook deteriorates between now and when the board of equalization makes its final estimate in mid-February." House Bill 1017, the education tax bill, increased individual and corporate income taxes and sales taxes. The Office of State Finance estimates the portion of revenues that can be attributed to those increases, so that the money will be earmarked to go for the common education reforms it's supposed to be paying for.

For the fiscal year that ends June 30, the House Bill 1017 tax revenues available for appropriation were esti- mated at $218 million. That is estimated to grow by $14.8 million to $232.8 million for the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1. But White said $100 million to $110 million is needed in addition to tax revenues.

Taking into consideration the $14.8 million in growth money, the revenues will be about $86 million to $90 million short of what's required in the 1992 session to fund the education reforms called for by House Bill 1017, necessi- tating an appropriation from the "new" money. White said the education bill is top priority among lawmakers.

Added to that are about $60 million in supplemental appropriation requests by state agencies, all to come theoretically from the $126 million in new money.

White said state agency heads have got a lot of reallocating to do.

According to a report prepared by the finance office and the state bond adviser's office, about $20 million was cut from non-education agencies' base budgets and shifted to higher priority programs during the 1991 session.

Some of the big agencies, particularly the Oklahoma Department of Human Services, have a "self-appropriating" mechanism which may lull them into assuming they'll be taken care of, White said. He said agency heads should take a real close look at managing their agencies and do all they can to make do without supplemental appropriations.

White said the last he recalled hearing was that DHS expenditures were out of hand by about $28 million. But he said he did not get the impression from the Oklahoma Human Services Commis- sion, which oversees the department, "that there was any kind of management plan they were embarking on." "There are so many needs, and it just depends on how much you can reallocate from the existing budget," he said. "I think as a manager, the room for innovation is just starting. You don't innovate unless you have a need, and we have some major needs." In other action, the finance office projected that general revenue fund receipts for the fiscal year that ends June 30 will exceed the board's February estimate by 0. …

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