State budget officials will know early next week whether money given to state agencies should be reduced and by how much because of expected slumping state revenue figures.
Gov. Brad Henry worked until about 9 last night going over preliminary revenue figures. He wouldn’t say as we walked out of the state Capitol together what they showed. He said he still had to digest the early numbers, but he didn’t seem his typical optimistic self.
Maybe he was just tired, but no one would be surprised if next week’s report shows revenues continue to sag.
Tax revenue has come in below estimates each of the past six months. The growing gap concerns budget officials. Receipts in April were 10 percent below the estimate, May receipts were 20 percent below the estimate and revenue came in 30 percent below the estimate in June.
The gross production tax on natural gas continues to be under $4 per 1,000 cubic feet. It clowsed yesterday at $3.74. The budget for this fiscal year is based on gas prices to average $5.22 per 1,000 cubic feet. A year ago, natural gas was about $13 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Unlike the federal government, Oklahoma cannot practice deficit spending and can spend only what it brings in each year.
If next week’s report, to be released Tuesday, shows tax revenue isn’t enough to pay this month’s bills, the state finance office will declare a revenue shortfall. Across-the-board cuts for state agencies will have to be determined.
It’s expected that if June’s revenue collections fall significantly below the estimate, the state Equalization Board may meet in special session to consider using some of the state’s nearly $6 million in its savings account, the Rainy Day Fund. The board, made up of several statewide officials including Henry, is limited to how much it can withdraw at one time from the fund.
The governor and legislators haven’t used money from the fund since 2003 to get the state through its last economic downturn.
- Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau