Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Money Woes May Gobble Up Keating Tax Cut Agenda

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Money Woes May Gobble Up Keating Tax Cut Agenda

Article excerpt

Republican Gov. Frank Keating has gotten the budget cuts he wanted from the Democrat-dominated Oklahoma Legislature, but the cash pie to fund his proposed tax reductions is dwindling fast.

Keating did not want to be specific last week, when asked to identify what tax-cut plan he would go to the mat for and what price tag it would carry.

"It is premature to have to say that right this minute," he said. "Quite obviously we're going to get down to the point where it's like, I don't know, the Donner party. Somebody will be eaten."

At this juncture, it appears his tax program is in the most danger of being gobbled up as the governor and legislators wrestle with a number of pressing money woes.

The House and Senate adopted a $3.7 billion base budget last week that included the 2.5 percent agency budget cuts that Keating proposed.

That left about $80 million in unspent funds to fight over. Keating's original budget proposed to spend about $30 million of that amount on such things as prisons, courts, district attorneys, midterm adjustments for growing school districts and to help in the transition to the Medicaid managed care program.

If lawmakers go along with that $30 million, that would leave only about $50 million to fund Keating's tax program, which the governor already has scaled back from $65 million to $40 million.

If legislators went along with the tax cuts _ which is considered unlikely _ there would only be about $10 million left to fund about $100 million in pressing needs, plus additional spending under consideration in the governor's office.

Topping the needs list is $25 million that would be required to keep schools from losing money because of a problem in the teacher retirement system.

Other money problems include: Additional funding for midterm adjustments that has been suggested by the governor's office. More than $20 million that is being sought for the Department of Human Services to pay for costs associated with federal mandates and court orders, including required nursing home and hospital COLAS and an expenditure stemming from the Terry D. …

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