The Winter Rush
Ponca City Now - December 6, 2019 12:01 pm
By Sen. Bill Coleman
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving with friends and family.
The next month is going to fly by. December is a busy time in the Legislature. This coming Friday is the deadline to make bill requests. No new legislation can be requested after Dec. 13. We can only amend existing bills.
The State Board of Equalization meets on Friday, Dec. 20. This is when the board will announce the FY’21 revenue estimate that Gov. Stitt will use to craft his budget proposal for the Legislature. He will present his proposal in his State of the State Address on the first day of session on Monday, Feb. 3. We will then consider his suggestions as we begin crafting the FY’21 budget.
The State Board of Equalization will then meet again in late February to provide an updated estimate for the Legislature. The board will then provide one more estimate in June to ensure there is adequate funding to cover the state budget that goes into effect July 1.
Everyone is anxiously waiting to see how much revenue we’ll have available this coming session. Oklahoma’s economy has been strong the last couple of years, but is starting to show signs of slowing down. The State Treasurer’s Office announced this week that the November Gross Receipts were $43.8 million, or 4.2 percent, below last November’s numbers. This is the first time monthly gross receipts have been less than the previous year since March 2017, or 32 months ago.
This has been caused by lower sales tax and a decline in oil industry tax payments. Sales tax receipts have been decreasing for five of the last six months while oil and gas production collections have been falling drastically the last three months.
When energy prices drop, so do our gross production taxes, which is one of our state’s top sources of income. When the energy sector struggles, our state is also hurt financially in other ways. For instance, when oil employees are laid off, like what happened this week with the 800 Halliburton employees in El Reno, those families have to cut back on their spending. They won’t spend as much at stores and restaurants, which hurts sales tax revenue. They may have to buy a smaller home, which impacts property taxes, which are Oklahoma schools’ top source of revenue. The individual and corporate income tax collections decrease as well. And worst-case scenario, they move out of state and we lose all streams of revenue.
Prayers for these workers and their families. Hopefully, they can find new jobs quickly.
So many areas are impacted. We need these sources of revenue to even out or start increasing.
Oklahoma is a Balanced Budget state, meaning we can only spend as much as the revenue coming in, which is the amount certified by the Board. When our state revenues drop drastically, the Legislature is forced to cut agency budgets. Constitutionally, we cannot spend money we don’t have. The only exception is bond issues, and those can only be used on specific projects like new buildings, not on agency programs.
In closing, I’ve had several events and meetings the last few weeks. Last week, we had our Senate Caucus retreat to work on our 2020 agenda and discuss other legislative issues. I’m very excited about the upcoming session.
I also attended the ribbon cutting for the 100th anniversary of the Ponca City Hospital. Congratulations to Alliance Health Ponca City.
I recently also attended the ribbon cutting for Grand Lake Mental Health’s new Intensive Outpatient Center in Stillwater. Prior to this, the closest centers were in Vinita and Fort Supply so this will be tremendously beneficial for local communities.
This week, I attended our Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. We’ve been holding agency budget hearings for the past month. We heard from the Departments of Health, Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Services as well as the J.D. McCarty Center for Children with Developmental Disabilities, the University Hospitals Authority, and the Oklahoma State University Medical Authority. Presentations were also made by the Office of Disability Concerns, the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth, and the Office of Juvenile Affairs.
You can contact me at the state Capitol by calling (405) 521-5581 or by email at [email protected]