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December 13, 2013

A flat budget year?

NORMAN — Oklahoma legislators don’t officially begin their 2014 legislative session until February. But next week’s meeting of the state Equalization Board will be just as important as the session’s opening day.

The board on Thursday will certify the amount of revenue available for the fiscal year that begins July 1. That’s the number Gov. Mary Fallin and state agency heads will use to prepare their executive budget that is submitted to lawmakers.

Gov. Fallin has already warned agencies to prepare for flat budgets and possible agency cuts. She’s anticipating increases in state spending on Medicaid as a result of more people signing up.

Earlier this week, the state’s secretary of finance reported that general revenue collections in November were below the official estimate by nearly 8 percent. For the first five months of the fiscal year, the Associated Press reported that revenue has come in below the estimate by an average 6.5 percent.

Lawmakers control the state’s budget and can spend 95 percent of what comes in and park the remaining 5 percent in a fund to account for revenue shortfalls.

A flat budget year is not what state employees, higher education and corrections are betting on. All have delivered early wish lists to lawmakers in hopes of boosting budgets.

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