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Oklahoma's Rainy Day Fund available for spending, AG office says

Oklahoma's Rainy Day Fund available for spending, AG office says

FULL ARTICLE

The Oklahoman
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT   
Published: November 19, 2009

All the money in the state’s savings account can be used to help offset this fiscal year’s revenue shortfall, according to a legal opinion by the state attorney general’s office.

That likely won’t occur, for legislative leaders and Gov. Brad Henry have said they don’t want to spend all the nearly $600 million in the Rainy Day Fund to deal with revenue that is about 22 percent low this fiscal year.

In the unofficial opinion requested by state Treasurer Scott Meacham, First Assistant Attorney General Tom Gruber writes that two triggers that allow legislators to appropriate up to 75 percent of the money have occurred.


• The Board of Equalization earlier certified that legislators will have less money this fiscal year than the previous year to appropriate. That made 37.5 percent, or about $225 million, available for use for this fiscal year.


• Another 37.5 percent became eligible for appropriation when shortfalls began this fiscal year.

Legislators can also declare an emergency, freeing up the remaining $150 million. For that to happen, the governor has to declare an emergency and two-thirds of the Senate and House have to agree; legislators could declare an emergency with a yes vote of three-fourths of the members in each body.

Meacham, the governor’s chief budget adviser, said the unofficial opinion gives legislative leaders and the governor flexibility with the budget.

Legislative leaders have cautioned against using too much of the savings account because the next fiscal year may be another lean year.

State agencies have received a 5 percent cut in their monthly state appropriations since August.

Legislators can direct specific budget cuts. The governor has suggested a special session in January if revised budget figures next month show steeper cuts are necessary for state agencies, most of which cut budgets by 7 percent at the beginning of this fiscal year.

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