By Rep. RICK WEST
Late last week, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services announced that state agencies will be seeing nearly $35 million infused back into their budgets. It’s a welcome heap of good news amidst the tumultuous past few weeks.
If you remember earlier this year, Oklahoma’s Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger declared a revenue failure, and state-appropriated agencies saw a 0.7 percent cut across the board. It wasn’t the first time such a revenue failure has happened. They are based on predictions, and Doerflinger feared revenue collections would fall outside of the 5 percent cushion we have built into our budget, so he ordered agencies scale back spending by 0.7 percent.
As it turns out though, the state collected more revenue than Doerflinger originally projected in February. The bottom line is this: agencies will see a bit more cash than they originally planned.
I’m relieved to say that the Oklahoma Department of Human Services will be receiving $4 million. I am hopeful Director Ed Lake will use that extra $4 million of unexpected cash to buoy the services he announced earlier this month would be cut. Programs like senior meal services deserve to be high on the priority list, and I urge Lake to ensure this additional cash is spent caring for our state’s most vulnerable populations.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education will see the biggest cash increase because it’s receiving just over $11 million back into its budget. I was reading the other day about teacher shortages and superintendents fretting about making ends meet. If the money is divided back into the accounts that were cut, schools will split more than $7 million, and about $3 million will go toward health benefit allowances for agency employees. The remaining money would be put into a school activities fund that saw cuts when the revenue failure was announced. This $11 million may not be the lottery agency officials dream of, but it’s certainly a bonus I’m thankful we’re seeing.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which manages Medicaid programs, will be reimbursed more than $4 million as well.
These are just three of the agencies, and dozens more will be seeing unexpected reimbursements, which I’m hopeful they’ll use to help offset any cuts they might have seen for Fiscal Year 2018.
Secretary Doerflinger was careful to point out that this doesn’t mean Oklahoma is out of the woods. After all, we still collected less tax revenue that originally projected. It just fell within that 5 percent cushion. This means the Legislature still has a tough job ahead of itself as we look at the budget for Fiscal Year 2019. It’s no secret I believe there’s still waste to be cut, and the fact that our state’s tax revenue was still below projections signals that we should continue to tighten our belt during these contraction cycles.
As always, I’m available if you need me. Feel free to email me at [email protected] or call me at 405-557-7413. Thank you and God bless.
Get our free daily email updates. Click HERE to sign up.
Sponsor OTHER STORIES or another section of heavenerledger.com. Call (918) 649-4712 for more information.
To submit a story or information, or to make a correction please send an email to [email protected]
Copyright 2017 Heavener Ledger. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.