Quick Take: Rainy Day Fund basics

This is a revised and updated version of a page authored by Paul Shinn from OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide

Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund helps protect against economic downturns. The Rainy Day Fund (formally known as the Constitutional Reserve Fund) was created in 1985 in response to a dramatic revenue downturn. It is designed to collect extra funds when times are good and to spend those funds when revenues cannot support ongoing state operations.

Money flows in to the Rainy Day Fund when revenue is more than estimated. Any General Revenue Fund collections beyond 100 percent of the estimated amount must be deposited into the Rainy Day Fund (unless it already has the maximum amount specified by the Constitution, 15 percent of the current revenue estimate for the General Revenue Fund).

The Constitution allows the Fund to be spent in four instances:

  • Up to three-eighths of the amount in the Fund may be used to make up for a shortfall in the current year’s collections.
  • Up to three-eighths of the amount in the Fund may be used in the budget for the next year if General Revenue collections are forecast to be less than the current year’s collections.
  • Up to one-fourth of the amount in the Fund may be spent through the appropriations process for an emergency. There are two methods for declaring an emergency: The Governor, with the agreement of two-thirds of each the House of Representatives and the Senate, can declare emergency conditions exist; or the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, with the agreement of three-quarters of each the House and Senate, can jointly declare emergency conditions exist without the Governor’s consent.
  • Up to $10 million may be spent on tax incentives for at-risk manufacturers.

The chart below shows how the Rainy Day Fund has been used to help maintain fiscal stability over the last decade.

During the early part of the 2000s the balance of the Rainy Day Fund grew to a peak of $340 million due to modest revenue growth and limited appropriations. In FY 2003 and 2004, nearly the entire balance of the Fund was needed to maintain service levels during a severe revenue downturn. Strong revenue growth due to economic recovery and high energy prices, combined with not spending any of the Fund, allowed it to meet its legal maximum at the time, $597 million, in FY 2009.

The Fund was exhausted to help reduce the impact of revenue shortfalls in FY ’10-11. The 2010 Legislature appropriated $224 million from the Rainy Day Fund to offset FY ’10 shortfalls, appropriated $273 million for the FY ’11 budget,  and transferred $100 million to a cash fund to be used in FY ’12.

Because GR exceeded estimates in FY ’11, a $219.4 million deposit was made into the RDF at the start of FY ’12. Unless revenue collections come in below appropriated amounts, a maximum of one-quarter of the RDF could be appropriated upon an emergency declaration (see above).

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Blatt helped found OK Policy in 2008 and became the organization's Executive Director in 2010. David previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers. He lives in Tulsa with his wife, Patty Hipsher, a special education teacher in Broken Arrow, and their son, Noah.

4 thoughts on “Quick Take: Rainy Day Fund basics

  1. I KNOW that this was not the amount Fallin reported that was in the rainy day fund just few months ago. It was more like 600 mill. Even so, with 219mill why isn’t the state helping Woodward? Thats what it is for , not for Fallin to travel on.

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