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Oklahoma Could See Revenue Surplus, Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger Says

Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger speaks during a meeting of the State Board of Equalization in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 20, 2016.
Sue Ogrocki
Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger speaks during a meeting of the State Board of Equalization in Oklahoma City, Monday, June 20, 2016.

State agencies may see shallower cuts than they expected due to a current $166 million surplus.

That number could decline though, and after Monday’s state Board of Equalization meeting Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger wouldn’t guess how much money might be left over. Revenue collections aren’t complete for the month of June, the Sean Murphy with the Associated Press reports:

Faced with slumping revenue collections amid a downturn in the energy industry, Doerflinger was forced to order spending reductions of 3 percent in December to agency budgets. In March, he ordered a second round of cuts totaling 4 percent. “I had people telling me we should go to 5 percent,” Doerflinger said. “We made the cut we felt was most appropriate at the time based on the information that we had and how collections were coming in.” Once the exact amount of surplus is determined, Doerflinger said the money likely will be reallocated to state agencies based on how much they were originally appropriated. The Legislature or Gov. [Mary] Fallin also could call a special session to determine how to reallocate any surplus, but Fallin said it was too early to speculate about that. “We’re still looking at legal opinions about what we can do with that money,” the governor said.

The Board of Equalization released the figures during an annual meeting required by the state Constitution. The goal is to make sure the money lawmakers appropriate is consistent with how much revenue the state will collect in Fiscal Year 2017. eCapitol’sShawn Ashley reports 11 laws affect the General Revenue Fund, and could generate an additional $223 million. The Education Reform Revolving Fund created by House Bill 1017 decades ago, could also see a $17.9 million increase:

The fund is a not certified but is subject to legislative appropriation. That means up to 100 percent of the money may be appropriated by lawmakers, subject to gubernatorial approval. State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones, a member of the board, voted again the motion to certify the changes to the General Revenue Fund and the DPS fund. Jones said he was concerned an appendix in the packet inaccurately reflected agency appropriations. In particular, Jones took issue with the inclusion of$32.3 million in agency revolving fund authorizations. Jones said the inclusion made it appear agencies were receiving more money than they actually were and that were being authorized or told to spend money they already had the authority to spend. Those actions were part of SB1616, the general appropriations bill. Instead, Jones suggested that information be included in a footnote, rather than in the appendix itself.

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services could return the money equally to all agencies, or lawmakers could call a special session and return to 23rd and Lincoln to distribute the money at their discretion, The Oklahoman's Rick Green reports:

"Campaigns are going on and folks are eager to be on the campaign trail, or if they are not up for re-election, they've mostly checked out by now," [Oklahoma Policity Institute executive director David] Blatt said. "If they were to return, then the Legislature would have the difficult task of choosing who is the most worthy — schools, mental health or public safety. "I can't see the Legislature being really eager to take on that task and subject itself to the pressure."

Fallin and Doerflinger are in New York on Tuesday, along with state treasurer Ken Miller. They’re joined by House Speaker-designate Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and state Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, who’s the vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to Murphy:

[Fallin] plans to meet with some of the nation’s top credit rating agencies about how the state closed a $1.3 billion hole in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. In a report released earlier this month, Moody’s Investors Service gave the state negative marks for drawing down its reserves and slashing funding to higher education in the $6.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2017.

Fallin said she invited lawmakers to give them a sense of the intricacies of the rating process.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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