A quick look at the new state budget

Though the dust hasn’t yet settled at the Capitol, Oklahoma’s Legislature has nearly finished a budget for FY’10, which starts July 1. The final budget totals $7.231 billion. Legislators used $641 million from the federal stimulus bill to make up for a state revenue decline of more than $600 million. The resulting spending total is 1.5 percent higher than last year’s, counting the stimulus. Without the stimulus, state spending is down 7.1 percent.

OK Policy will shortly be releasing a full-fledged issue brief that will look in detail at the numbers and what they could mean in FY’10 and beyond. Meanwhile, we have put together a four-page fact sheet┬áthat shows how this year’s budget fits into historical perspective, where the money comes from, and how it is allocated among state agencies.(With the Senate’s abrupt adjournment on Friday, some appropriation bills await final passage. The numbers in the fact sheet are based on appropriation bills that have passed both chambers or been voted out of conference committee.)

The graph below shows that Education gets more than half–53 percent–of the total, followed by Health and Social Services. Both of these functions benefited from injections of stimulus funds. These are the only two functions with more money than last year. Other service areas took cuts ranging from one to four percent. Many agencies were cut seven percent from FY’09.

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Budgets don’t mean much in themselves. Their importance is in the level of service they establish and in how services are allocated. Thanks to Oklahoma’s rushed and largely hidden approach to budgeting, we can’t say a lot about what this budget means in Oklahoma’s cities, towns, and farms. We’ll all learn more about that as agencies develop detailed budget work plans and as the fiscal year unfolds.

Budgets also don’t mean much out of context. We also need to understand how this year’s budget is different from the last few years,’ More important, we need to look ahead to see how economic and political conditions, as well as choices we made in this year’s budget, will affect our taxes and spending in the next few years.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Shinn

Paul Shinn served as Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst with OK Policy from May 2019 until December 2021. Before joining OK Policy, Shinn held budget and finance positions for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the Department of Human Services, the cities of Oklahoma City and Del City and several local governments in his native Oregon. He also taught political science and public administration at the University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma, and California State University Stanislaus. While with the Government Finance Officers Association, Paul worked on consulting and research projects for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and several state agencies and local governments. He also served as policy analyst for CAP Tulsa. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from University of Oklahoma and degrees from the University of Oregon and the University of Maryland College Park. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife Carmelita.

3 thoughts on “A quick look at the new state budget

  1. At some point, our state is going to have to get more agressive in funding natural resource work. We have nearly 2/3rds of our state’s streams on the federal 303d list, meaning they are considered impared and in need of attention; we are facing serious energy challanges, especially in the area of transportation fuels; and regardless of if we like it or not, the issue of climate change will affect Oklahoma more than probably any other state in the union (we are in the most unstable region of the country when it comes to weather, so any change will have a huge impact on us).

    All of these issues represent challanges, but they also represent potential areas of economic development. Carbon sequestration, biofuels, windpower, methane capture–all of these could be real opportunites for our state. We have to be willing to put the dollars into makeing them work though if we want to take advantage of any of them.

    Education is important, but if you don’t have clean water to drink, abundant and affordable food to eat or energy to power your home, car and business, it won’t do you much good.

    We have to do more in the area of natural resources.

  2. Thanks, Clay–Adjusting for inflation, the Natural Resources and Regulatory agencies have ten percent lower appropriations now than in 2000. The Oklahoma Water Resources Board is among the agencies with the largest budget cuts over the last decade. Issues you mention don’t seem to be a priority in Oklahoma and you may well be right about the perils resulting from ignoring both the problems and the opportunities.

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