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Oklahoma sees nearly $1.2 billion boost in spending level

February 16, 2021 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Better-than-expected projections for taxes on oil production and individual and corporate income will leave Oklahoma lawmakers with nearly $1.2 billion more to spend on the upcoming state budget than originally anticipated, a state panel determined Tuesday.

The State Board of Equalization, led by Gov. Kevin Stitt, certified a total authorized spending level of $9.6 billion on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That’s a major increase over the $8.4 billion that was projected in December.

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State finance officials say a 30% increase in projected collections of taxes on oil, and a roughly 12% boost on projections for individual and corporate income tax led to the rosier projections. Also, in a rare move last year amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, state lawmakers did not spend all of the available revenue, leaving some cash in savings that can be used in this year’s budget.

Still, legislative leaders cautioned that the state also used a lot of one-time revenue last year that won’t be available to spend on this year’s budget, including an infusion of revenue from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act.

“While it looks like we’ve got a banner year in (Fiscal Year) 2022, it’s been artificially lifted in some areas by federal money, and right now we don’t foresee that in FY 23,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson.

The improved economic outlook means most state agencies that received cuts of about 4% last year will not see any further reductions in their budgets and could actually see spending increases.

Some Republican leaders even mentioned the possibility of targeted tax cuts next year.

“With this certification, we can make targeted investments in agencies, replenish reserves and even consider tax relief,” House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Kevin Wallace said in a statement. “State government is in a very good spot thanks to restrained conservative budgeting last year and a resilient economy.”