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ENID: Legislators must deal with state shortfall

ENID: Legislators must deal with state shortfall

Legislators must deal with state shortfall

THE ENID NEWS AND EAGLE
By Robert Barron, Staff Writer

July 15, 2009 11:56 pm

Enid legislators are hoping they will be able to “fill in the gaps” as the state’s recession continues.

Trea-surer Scott Meach-am said Tuesday state revenue for June was down 30 percent from the same month in 2008. He also warned a budget shortfall could happen in coming months.

Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, said it is too early to determine what cuts, if any, will have to be made by state agencies. Anderson said he anticipates any cuts would be made equally for all agencies.

Total revenue collections for June were down $190 million. Gross production taxes on oil and gas generated only $13 million in June, which is $91.7 million, or 88 percent, less than collections a year ago and 82 percent lower than the estimate upon which this year’s budget was built.

Income taxes, both personal and corporate, fell 25 percent from a year ago. Sales taxes were down 11.5 percent and motor vehicle taxes were off 25 percent.

Anderson said there are other alternatives to budget cuts. Anderson said the 1.4 percent cuts in May were made on the last month of the 2009 fiscal year, and the state just started the 2010 fiscal year July 1.

“We built in an anticipated loss of $612 million in revenue,” he said of the budget lawmakers approved and Gov. Brad Henry signed. “If the budget numbers are still off, we do have Rainy Day funds to fill in the gaps and some unspent federal stimulus dollars. Or, we could make across-the-board cuts in every state agency, depending on how bad the situation gets.”

Anderson said legislators knew there would be an economic downturn, and he thinks the state will be in good shape moving forward, al-though budgets will be tight.

“I think we’re seeing signs of an economic recovery and there is no reason to panic now,” he said. “We have to be frugal and pay close attention to how things are going.”

Right now, the state’s economy does not look good to Rep. Mike Jackson.

“The economic outlook for Oklahoma and the country continues to worsen and be slow,” the Enid Republican said.

He said legislators must be prudent on fixing the budget and care for the most essential services. Stimulus money will plug some holes as they continue to come in, and the $600 million Rainy Day Fund is fully funded, he said.

“We’ll most likely have to look at tightening belts just like everyone else and make sure we are spending money in an efficient way,” he said.

Jackson said the fiscal year 2010 budget is based on more realistic numbers, and that is why state expenditures were cut 7 percent in the budget the Legislature approved. Al-though federal stimulus money filled some holes, he said those funds run out in nine quarters so there must be recovery by 2011 for the state to escape a worse budget situation.

Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, said he thinks the budget will be sufficient to make it, but if not they may need to make additional cuts.
“People will have to tighten their belts some more. This year we filled in education, transportation and infrastructure,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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