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Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry sees crisis as revenue declines

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry sees crisis as revenue declines

Budget - 5 percent cuts will continue at agencies

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT - The Oklahoman    
Published: November 3, 2009

Plans to wait until legislators return to appropriate money to state agencies and programs reeling from recent 5 percent monthly budget cuts are in jeopardy if revenue collections continue to come in 20 percent or more below estimates, Gov. Brad Henry said Monday.

Most state agencies and departments took a 7 percent cut this fiscal year, and all have received 5 percent cuts in state appropriations because revenue collections have come in 26 percent below estimates for the first quarter. The 5 percent monthly cuts are likely to continue through June, the end of this fiscal year.

More than 100 older Oklahomans are expected to show up Wednesday at the state Capitol to protest slashing some senior nutrition programs by the state Department of Human Services because of the revenue shortfall.

"We have a crisis throughout state government,” Henry said. "The senior centers are just a tip of the iceberg.

"Hopefully we can make it to regular session, but we may not.”

Henry, who said he will try to meet with the group of seniors Wednesday, said the senior nutrition program for low-income people has not been cut. The program that provided meals to any elderly Oklahoman ended with the start of the month.

"Let me stress this is the beginning of many such rallies,” Henry said. "Important programs throughout state government are suffering right now and are taking cuts.”

The governor dismissed the notion of a legislator seeking a special session to address the senior nutrition program funding shortfall.

"There are so many programs that are suffering right now that need to be addressed,” Henry said. "This situation is critical.”

Henry said that he and legislative leaders are talking regularly.

Before lawmakers decide to spend any of the nearly $600 million in the state’s savings account, the Rainy Day Fund, it would be helpful to get a snapshot of the revenue projection for the next fiscal year, Henry said.

The state Tax Commission will present its first estimate of the 2011 fiscal year in late December. Legislators return in regular session in February.

In addition to the Rainy Day Fund, legislators have also set aside about $600 million in federal stimulus funds to use for the 2011 fiscal year.

"We are prepared, and we’re just trying to figure out the best way to deal with this,” the governor said.

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