With every new year comes a new legislative session, and I’m excited to hit the ground running in February when the Second Session of the 57th Legislature convenes. One of the biggest responsibilities of our legislative body is to set the budget for each state agency and appropriate funds wisely.
The Oklahoma State Board of Equalization recently met and certified their initial fiscal year 2021 figures, which gives us an idea of what revenues will be available for next year’s state budget. Chaired by Governor Kevin Stitt, the figures certified by the Board of Equalization gives the governor’s office an opportunity to create a budget proposal for the legislature to take into account as we build the final budget. It was no surprise that the projected budget appears to be flat due to lower than expected oil and gas prices that have slowed Oklahoma’s economy.
Preliminary numbers released by the board reports the state will have an estimated $8.3 billion to appropriate across the more than 60 state agencies that depend on state funding to operate. This figure is $9.4 million, or 0.1 percent, more than what was appropriated by the legislature for fiscal year 2020.
In the interim, agency directors began meeting with Senate and House appropriation committees to outline their budget requests for fiscal year 2021, which begins on July 1, 2020. Some agencies requested substantial increases to their budget for the upcoming year. The State Department of Education requested an additional $220 million for their budget, and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education requested a $125 million budget increase. Other agencies, like the Department of Health, actually requested a decrease in their budget, citing that efficiencies have been found within their organizations and they are now able to operate with less. Some agencies have requested a flat budget or modest increases of one to two percent. I will continue to look closely at each agency request to make sure every taxpayer dollar is being used efficiently and wisely.
Although we won’t be able to meet all agency requests with the projected budget as it stands, we shouldn’t have to make agency cuts. It’s important to remember that it wasn’t many years ago we were facing budget shortfalls and across-the-board cuts. It is a positive sign that our budget has remained stable amidst decreasing oil production in the state. The steps we have taken to reform our budgeting process are working.
As always, it is an honor to serve District 2 as your state senator. My office is always open to hear your comments and concerns. If I can assist you in any way, please feel free to contact me or my executive assistant, Donna Garlick, at 405-521-5555.