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Tulsa World Editorial: State faces budget crisis

Dec 18, 2015 | by Lynn Powell

The following is about the Budget crisis as they will start cutting budgets starting in Jan and then even more come in July. This will be a great time to get changes done, but it will not be easy everyone has to get involved or it will just get worse the the love ones on the inside Make sure you have all your friends and family sign on to the http://nationinside.org/campaign/oklahoma-cure/

By World’s Editorial Writers | Posted: Thursday, December 17, 2015 12:00 am

State government almost certainly won’t have enough money to make its budget this year, and will have even less to spend next.

That was the bad news that came from the Capitol on Tuesday.

And it will be bad news for a lot of people. It will mean less money for schools, roads, public safety and everything else state government funds.

Five months into the fiscal year, state Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger says it looks like revenue will fall 7.7 percent, or $444.3 million, below the estimate used to build the state budget. Next year, the Legislature will have to build a budget based on at least $900.8 million less than the current budget.

When the state Equalization Board accepts those numbers next week, Doerflinger’s job will be to cut state budget allocations across the board so that the state doesn’t go into a deficit for the fiscal year that ends in June.

Because the state budget is built on 95 percent of the estimated revenue, current projections are that already-tight state budget allocation will have to be cut by about $157 million.

Public schools, state colleges and universities and the career tech system make up a little more than 50 percent of the state budget, so the cuts will hit education hardest. They surely will face dreadful cuts in their budget next year too, as will the already underfunded state programs in corrections, and mental health.

Of course, increased austerity should be part of the response. To her credit, Gov. Mary Fallin implemented enhanced scrutiny on new hiring, pay increases, and out-of-state travel months ago and more recently ordered state agencies to plan for a 10 percent cut to their non-essential budgets. More belt-tightening measures are certain to follow, as they should.

Some have sought to politicize the crisis, blaming Republican-led efforts to cut state taxes for the shortfall. That flies in the face of math and logic. If the state had a higher tax rate, this year’s budget would have been built on a higher estimate, which wouldn’t have been met either.

This year’s budget failure and next year’s budget hole were not caused by tax cuts. They were caused by the dramatic fall in the price of petroleum, which was engineered overseas by a cartel of oil-rich dictatorships in an aggressive move to drive American oil production out of the market. It’s working, and the people of Oklahoma are its victims.

That doesn’t mean that the tax cuts were good policy. They weren’t. And it doesn’t mean that the Legislature shouldn’t reconsider their wisdom now that the crisis is here. It certainly should.

Particularly, a 0.25 percent cut to the state’s top income tax rate due to go into effect on Jan. 1 needs to be reconsidered. That would produce some money for this year, but there would still be a revenue failure of at least $100 million.

Also, the spending money available from the state’s “Rainy Day” fund needs to be considered to ease the blow to critical areas of state funding this year and next.

In the face of such a steep fall, all potential measures need to be considered, including a special session of the Legislature to look at tax rates and rainy day funding.