Oklahoma panel certifies $8.3B, projects flat budget in 2020

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma will have about $8.3 billion in available revenue to spend on next year’s budget, roughly the same as was spent on the current year’s budget, a state panel determined on Friday.

The Oklahoma Board of Equalization certified the $8.3 billion, a figure Gov. Kevin Stitt will use to prepare his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Stitt said he also plans to reduce agency budgets to account for about $250 million in “one-time” expenses that were approved last year. That additional revenue should allow for extra spending on priorities like health care and education, Stitt said.

“A lot of agencies last year asked for one-time money to invest in technology or some deferred maintenance,” Stitt said after the meeting. “I’m backing all of those things back out, so we should have some money.

“Traditionally, if there was money for one-time items and the Legislature appropriated it, then that became part of the base next year.”

The board will meet again in February to determine the final amount of revenue available for the Legislature to appropriate in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Republican legislative leaders expressed cautious optimism about next year’s financial picture.

“While there is concern in the decline in gross production taxes collected on natural gas, other sectors of the economy are performing well and helping to fill in that revenue gap,” Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said in a statement.

Sen. Roger Thompson, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, noted the state also has about $200 million in additional obligations next year for property tax exemption reimbursements to local school districts, bond debt for the state Capitol renovations and increasing costs for teacher health care benefits.

Oklahoma also will have more than $1 billion in reserve accounts next year, including about $806 million in the constitutional “Rainy Day” reserve fund and another $200 million that Stitt and legislative leaders set aside from a surplus last year.