by State Representative Kevin Wallace
Oklahoma House District 32
Because of the effects on the economy from COVID-19 and the sharp downturn in the price of oil and gas, the latest projection of how much money the Legislature has authority to spend for Fiscal Year 2021 is $6.878 billion. That is down $1.366 billion from the $8.244 billion certified by the state Board of Equalization in February.
Even if we took our savings to zero, we would still have 7.5% less to spend than in Fiscal Year 2020. This could mean significant cuts for every agency.
Of course, I and other leaders from the House and Senate are working with the governor’s office to mitigate cuts. We are considering every measure available to us, including using savings, issuing bonds and apportionments. We are creatively thinking outside the box, and everything is on the proverbial table.
As far as the governor’s announcement to reopen businesses to begin the process of restoring our economy, it’s still very important that we use data and science to make our decisions. We must get back to work, and we all want to be able to resume normal activities, but we want to make sure we don’t see a spike in the death rates or the number of people who are ill or need hospitalization.
All indicators show we are at manageable levels now to begin to reopen many of our businesses and other venues, and we will continue to monitor as we reopen in phases.
People who have compromised immune systems or who are ill still need to practice safer-at-home. We still need to maintain good social distancing and continue washing our hands. Employers are advised to begin allowing employees to come back to work in phases, keeping them as distanced from each other as possible and maintaining good sanitation. Personal care businesses, such as hair and nail salons, barbershops and pet groomers will reopen first by appointment only. If all goes well, churches, restaurant dining rooms and sports and entertainment venues will be next.
We must get back to work for the sake of our financial recovery, or government will not be able to fund core services. Each one of us, however, has a personal responsibility and must act accordingly for their own health and wellbeing as well as that of others.
Kevin Wallace serves District 32 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7368 or via email at email@example.com.