The numbers released by State Treasurer Scott Meacham this morning aren’t pretty. But it’s not the worst in the country, he says.
With budget cuts in place and transfers, state leaders still have to find an additional $450 million to balance the budget by June 30, when the fiscal year ends. Those numbers still need to be approved by the Board of Equalization, which meets tomorrow.
State leaders have committed to restoring funds to an account that pays for education reforms that has also seen its collections drop off. So in reality, budget crafters most come up with $530 million to meet the balanced budget requirement. That money could come from the Rainy Day Fund, stimulus dollars or additional cuts. That’s up to lawmakers and the governor to decide.
A recent report by the National Conference of State Legislators says that Oklahoma has the highest percentage budget gap. Oklahoma’s actual collections are 18.5 percent below estimates. This is the largest in the nation, according to the report. But there’s a foot note to those rankings that must be considered, Meacham says.
Oklahoma hasn’t tapped its Rainy Day Fund yet. There is about $600 million in the Rainy Day Fund. The state also has federal stimulus dollars that could be used. Many states don’t have a savings account flush with cash or stimulus dollars, he said.
By Meacham’s calculations, that budget gap is closer to 14. 18 percent — which means Oklahoma’s budget numbers aren’t the worst in the country.