Where the Money Is

With the state anticipating large budget shortfalls – estimated by Republican legislative leaders as in the vicinity of $600 million –  for the upcoming fiscal year, there is renewed talk from state leaders about the need to protect “core public services” from the full impact of potential cuts. While the interpretation of core public services varies, most officials define the term to include education, health (which may encompass human services), public safety and transportation.

The graph below presenting the allocation of current year (FY ’11) state appropriations shows why the task of balancing the budget without cuts to core services or new revenues is so difficult, if not outright impossible:

Of the $6.714 billion in total state appropriations, a full $6.00 billion, or 89.5 percent, goes to just ten agencies –  all of which are in the core areas of education, health and human services, public safety and transportation. The other 68 appropriated agencies, which include the Tax Commission, the court system, the Legislature, the Health Department, veterans care facilities, and a wide range of regulatory and economic development agencies, among others, receive a total of just $700 million, or 11 percent.  Most of those agencies have already experienced cuts exceeding 15 percent over the past two years (you can see annual appropriations by agency from this factsheet).

The bottom line is, as much as those crafting the FY ’12 budget will genuinely strive to protect core services, that’s where the dollars go.  And unless additional revenues become available to reduce the size of the shortfall, that’s where at least some of the cuts will inevitably take place.

(A reminder that Governor Fallin will present her FY ’12 Executive Budget, along with the State of the State Address, on the first day of session, February 7th).


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He 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.

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