Rainy Day Fund Savings Passes House Unanimously

Mike Seals - March 11, 2021 11:36 pm

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill aimed at expanding the state Rainy Day Fund passed out of the House on Thursday with unanimous approval.

House Joint Resolution 1001, by Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, provides Oklahoma voters the opportunity to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to allow more money to be saved in the Constitutional Reserve Fund, better known as the “Rainy Day Fund.”

“When you save money at home for an emergency, do you ignore two-thirds of your spending?” Fugate asks. “Do you leave out your house payment, your utilities, your insurance? Of course not. This bill asks the people to do the same with our state emergency fund by accounting for all of our regular spending.”

Oklahoma’s Rainy Day Fund dates back to an idea in 1985 by retired Sen. Jim Howell, D-Midwest City. The state budget routinely fluctuates with boom years followed by bust years. The Rainy Day Fund captures money from the boom years for use in the bust years. In 2010, Oklahoma voters approved changing the calculation from 10 to 15 percent. However, shortfalls in recent years have shown this wasn’t enough.

“It doesn’t make sense to keep asking the voters to approve more rate increases when we can just fix the math entirely,” Fugate said.

HJR 1001:

Asks the voters to amend the State Constitution;
Expands the Rainy Day calculation to account for all primary state spending;
Excludes one-time spending, fees/licenses, and bond expenditures.

Under this proposal, the potential state savings could move from $900 million to more than $3 billion. The constitution only allows three-eighths of the money to be spent at one time. With recent revenue shortfalls between $900 million to $1.3 billion, this is a must-needed change.

The House joint resolution is now eligible to be heard in the Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton.

 

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