OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s budget is expected to have little growth in fiscal year 2021.
The Board of Equalization on Friday went over figures that show the state will have $8.3 billion for expenditure in fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1.
The figure is $9.4 million or 0.1 percent more than what the Legislature appropriated for fiscal year 2020.
Gov. Kevin Stitt, who chairs the panel, will base his budget on the figures certified Friday. The governor’s budget is considered a starting point for lawmakers when they return to the Capitol in February.
The Board of Equalization will meet again in February to certify figures the Legislature will use in the budgeting process.
“Thank goodness we were able to save $200 million last year, or we would be in a worse situation this year, but it is going to be a flat budget this year,” Stitt said.
He and state lawmakers put $200 million in a revenue stabilization fund, which is available for expenditure.
“I am just telling agencies to let us know what their true needs are but keep in mind we have got a flat budget this year,” Stitt said.
He said his priorities will be health care, education and prison-diversion programs.
The governor also said some $250 million in one-time funds given to agencies last year can be tapped.
The state’s Rainy Day Fund currently contains $806 million, said Shelly Paulk, budget director for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. The cap on that constitutional reserve fund will rise to $1 billion, she said.
Paulk said growth for 2021 is expected to remain subdued, but she said record oil and gas production and a resilient service-producing sector indicate an economic pullback far less severe than 2015-16.
Meanwhile, unemployment remains low, and personal income growth is steady, she said.
“Overall, we are cautiously optimistic about the revenue outlook for next year,” said Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “While there is concern in the decline in gross production taxes collected on natural gas, other sectors of the economy are performing well and helping to fill in that revenue gap.”
In addition, steps taken by the Legislature to shore up the state’s financial standing are working, he said.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, said the state already has nearly $200 million in obligations, including ad valorem reimbursements to schools, bond debt on the repairs to the Capitol and increased costs for teacher health care benefits.