OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Legislature will have $7 billion in revenue to spend on the coming fiscal year’s budget, an increase of $212 million over what was appropriated last year, a state panel determined Tuesday.
The figures approved by the State Board of Equalization are for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Gov. Mary Fallin said her priorities for the additional revenue are increased funding for public education and a proposed .25 percent cut to the state’s top income tax rate.
“It’s good news for Oklahoma that our economy is stronger and we’ve got more revenue than we anticipated,” Fallin said. “We’ve been talking among our legislative leaders that we still have some funding challenges with education, so we anticipate there could be some additional money allotted toward our education initiatives in our state.
“I’m still, of course, hoping that we will be able to give taxpayers some relief by a tax cut this year.”
Fallin’s executive budget, which was based on an estimate of about $34 million less, already included funding for mental health and child welfare programs.
As a result of Tuesday’s certification, state finance officials project $83 million will be deposited into the state’s Rainy Day Fund in July, bringing the amount in the constitutional reserve fund to a record $660 million.
Although Fallin’s secretary of finance, Preston Doerflinger, said the revenue growth is a positive indicator of the state’s economic strength, he cautioned that potential federal cuts to military spending could cause Oklahoma’s economic momentum to sputter.
“Today’s picture is bright, but the looming federal sequester is anything but,” Doerflinger said in a statement. “There is no doubt it could hit our defense sector hard.”
Oklahoma has five military installations, which directly employ more than 69,000 military personnel, federal civilian employees and contractors and had a total wage and salary payroll of more than $3 billion, according to a study two years ago by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. The same study showed the installations supported an additional 64,700 jobs and $2.6 billion in wage and salary payroll.
Despite the concern over looming federal cuts to defense, Doerflinger urged caution when it comes to taking money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
“Beginning to touch the Rainy Day Fund is a slippery slope,” Doerflinger said. “Let’s see how creative state agencies can get before we start tapping into the Rainy Day Fund.
Designed primarily to help cushion state revenue shortfalls, 25 percent of the Rainy Day Fund can be accessed if the governor and three-fourths of both legislative chambers declare an emergency.