Oklahoma lawmakers should have about $206.8 million, or 2.5 percent, more available funds for essential state services during the budget year that starts July 1, 2020, based on estimated revenue numbers released Friday by the Oklahoma Board of Equalization.
The estimated revenue figures certified Friday show the state should expect a modest increase in revenue. When those figures are run through the state’s budget formula, however, it shows a substantially higher availability of new budget dollars than might initially appear.
Available revenue this year may appear flat due to a decision by lawmakers in 2019 to place an additional $225 million in savings beyond what was required by law. As a result, Oklahoma started the current budget year in July 2019 with a record $1.08 billion in savings, which included the Rainy Day Fund, the Revenue Stabilization Fund, and the Rate Preservation Fund.
Because Oklahoma does not have a holistic snapshot of what state agencies need to best serve its residents, state leaders have made budget allocations based solely off revenue availability rather than the true needs for the state. Oklahoma Policy Institute argues that our state’s needs should be driving decision making around state budgeting.
“Oklahoma will not be able to save or cut our way to prosperity. We should take advantage of continued revenue growth to prioritize crucial investments in education, health care, human services and public safety,” said OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose.
OK Policy urges state lawmakers to continue the progress made during the past two years when the legislature chose to reinvest new revenue into state programs and services. Oklahoma has restored some funding to state programs during the past two budget cycles, but budgets for most state agencies remain below their 2009 funding levels when adjusted for inflation.
“A great deal of work remains for Oklahoma to undo the damage from a decade of budget cuts, let alone move forward with much needed improvements. We can — and should — be investing in the health, safety, and prosperity of all Oklahomans,” Rose said.
OK Policy will continue to monitor the ongoing budget-making process.