By Sean Murphy Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A state panel led by Gov. Kevin Stitt certified on Friday that Oklahoma lawmakers will have $8.46 billion to spend on next year’s budget, an increase of more than 8% from the current year’s spending plan.
State finance officials told Stitt and other members of the Board of Equalization that the state’s financial picture has improved dramatically since they last met in April, when the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to close and oil and natural gas prices had plummeted. Since then, an influx of federal coronavirus relief funds and a shift in the tax filing deadline has led to more revenue coming into the state than initially projected.
“By these projections, we now believe we will see less than half the revenue losses predicted in April,” Stitt said in a statement. “Moving forward, the Legislature will still have difficult decisions to make regarding the budget, but my team is committed to working alongside our legislators to ensure we remain fiscally responsible with Oklahomans’ hard earned tax dollars.”
Stitt will use the $8.46 billion figure to build his proposed budget that he will present to lawmakers in February. The board will meet again that month to certify the final amount lawmakers will have to spend on the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
While lawmakers will have an estimated $631 million more to spend this year, they will also have to make up for about $1 billion in “one-time” revenue sources that were used to build this year’s budget that won’t be available next year. Lawmakers tapped the state’s savings account and diverted payments to the state’s public pension systems and a road and bridge program to keep agency budget cuts to about 4%.