by State Representative Kevin Wallace
Oklahoma House District 32
The House and Senate continue to work together to draft a budget for Fiscal Year 2021 despite very little collaboration from the executive branch.
The Legislature is coming back into session this week, May 4, to continue work on the budget and perhaps to hear some policy bills. At the time of this writing, we are still discussing public access to the Capitol and whether or not all staff members will be brought back to work inside the building. We are still observing extreme caution related to exposure to COVID-19.
Regarding the budget, the state Board of Equalization in February authorized the Legislature to spend $8.244 billion, but the Oklahoma Tax Commission has recommended a reduction to $6.878 billion after the effects of business shutdowns due to COVID-19 and the plummet of oil and gas prices. This is a reduction of $1.366 billion, which is a 16.6% cut.
Budget leaders are thinking of creative and innovative ways to address the shortfall. We believe we will be able to avoid drastic cuts to every agency, but we’ve instructed the vice chairs of our Appropriation & Budget subcommittees to present us with amended budgets that account for cuts in the event they are necessary.
There’s been a lot of talk of using federal stimulus money to fill the revenue gap that now exists for FY21, but guidelines from the U.S. Treasury make clear that funds from the recent CARES Act may not be used as replacement funds or to supplant funds for our budget but only for items not accounted for previously. This becomes a very detailed discussion, and we are certainly looking at all options of how to best use the federal funds, but it’s important to know there are certain restrictions in place.
I’m hopeful that soon I will have a much more detailed picture of what state appropriations for core government services will look like next year. Until then, I like everyone will be watchful as we begin to reopen some businesses and venues throughout our state.
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.