In his weekly column in the Luther Register, State Rep. Kevin Wallace matter-of-factly dropped the two words that other state politicians have been dancing around since coronavirus hit, combined with falling oil and gas prices. The two words are “revenue failure.”
Wallace appeared on Tuesday’s Mitchell Talks’ daily FB Live broadcast after host Scott Mitchell read the column. Wallace is chairman of the powerful House Appropriations and Budget Committee and represents much of Lincoln County plus a wedge of southern Logan County that is part of Luther.
Mitchell asked Wallace now that he has “ripped off the band-aid regarding talk about the falling state budget, can it be fixed?”
Wallace said the state will fall short of its estimated revenue by $219 million, out of a $6.7 billion general revenue budget. Sales tax projections are tanking from forced business closures from Covid-19 plus a plummet in global oil and gas prices,
“This is not a normal year, or even a normal century,” Wallace said. He also said that the state has a healthy savings account. Known as the “Rainy Day Fund,” the savings account has $806 million. Wallace said the state is only allowed to access 3/8s value of the fund, and the shortfall amount of $219 million is well under that threshold.
Wallace said that state has been in this situation before, generally due to Oklahoma’s dependence on revenue from the energy sector.
“I’ve personally been there without money in savings. We never want this but this is something unprecedented with a global pandemic and the State of Oklahoma being an energy driven state suffering from global games with the price of oil,” said Wallace.
“Thank goodness we saved the money and can tap into that Rainy Day and keep core services going for our citizens.”
He said the recently passed Coronavirus Stimulus package from the federal government will send about $844 million to Oklahoma with some of it going to municipalities and some to business owners. Families are also supposed to get part of the funds.
Wallace encouraged Oklahomans to “stay focused and keep social distance.”
He praised businesses for finding creative ways to continue to operate. “Don’t panic, number one. Let this run its course, I have no doubt we will get through this and it will pass.”
Mitchell Talks airs a daily FB Live broadcast that draws an estimated 329,000 viewers. Focusing on the coronavirus crisis, guests are leaders and experts in health, education, government and more. The show airs at 10 am daily.