Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Proposed Budget Funding Draws Questions

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Proposed Budget Funding Draws Questions

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY -- A state board on Monday certified an extra $217 million for the 1997 Legislature to spend, but the attorney general questioned whether the figure should be higher.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson raised concern that "we are low- balling figures on purpose," noting that revenue collections for this year far exceed the estimate certified by the Equalization Board a year ago.

The board set the appropriations authority for next year at $4.366 billion. Edmondson abstained from voting on the certification after objecting that board members were being asked to make important decisions without having time to study the figures. Board members received the information at the start of Monday's meeting. They will meet again in February to make a final certification upon which Gov. Frank Keating and the Legislature will develop a budget. Keating, chairman of the board, was out of state and the meeting was conducted by Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin. Edmondson questioned the growth assumptions used in making the estimate of revenue available for next year. He pointed out that collections for the current fiscal year are now projected to top last year's estimate by 3.6 percent, or $126.5 million. Higher-than-expected increases in income taxes, sales taxes and oil taxes accounted for most of the revenue bonanza. If the latest projections for fiscal year 1997 are accurate, it would trigger a deposit for $126.5 million into the constitutional rainy day fund, on top of the $114.3 million now in that fund. Sandy Garrett, state school superintendent, said Edmondson raised "a very good point" at a time when the state had high demands for funding education, transportation and prisons. Edmondson said he could not vote for a final certification without having some of his questions answered. The board agreed to hold a briefing with Oklahoma State University economists to discuss their figures prior to meeting to certify revenue estimates. …

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