Okla. revenue collections fall 18 percent

Posted at 4:15 PM, Mar 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-15 17:15:40-04

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- State finance officials delivered more bad news Tuesday about Oklahoma's economy, reporting that collections to the state's main operating fund missed the official estimate last month by 18 percent.

Overall collections to the General Revenue Fund in February totaled $225.6, which is $49.4 million below the official estimate used to build the budget for the current fiscal year that ends June 30. Collections were more than 25 percent below those from February 2015.

Gov. Mary Fallin's Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger (DOR'-fling-ur) said the lagging collections are the reason why allocations to state agencies were slashed 3 percent in January and then deepened to 7 percent in March.

"It bears repeating that the most responsible way out of this is by adding stable, recurring revenues into the next budget as the governor proposed and is actively discussing with Legislature," Doerflinger said in a statement.

While total income tax collections last month exceeded the estimate, collections for every other major tax category were well below projections.

The state's economic troubles are largely the result of plunging oil and natural gas prices, which have had a ripple effect across the Oklahoma's economy. While state agencies are still grappling with budget reductions for the rest of the current fiscal year, lawmakers have an even more daunting task writing a budget for the upcoming fiscal year with an estimated $1.3 billion hole, which is nearly 20 percent of last year's spending.

Several state agencies have announced plans to offer voluntary buyouts to employees to help reduce personnel costs, while other agencies are considering layoffs or furloughs. The Oklahoma Historical Society announced Tuesday its 123 employees would be forced to take two furlough days before the end of the fiscal year, and both the Oklahoma Military Department and Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs have submitted reduction-in-force plans for a small number of employees.

The Oklahoma Senate on Tuesday passed bills to tap the state's Rainy Day Fund for $78 million to shore up funding this year for public schools and state prisons, part of an agreement with the House and governor that was announced last week. That leaves about $307 million in the fund to help offset cuts to agencies in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1.