OKLAHOMA CITY – For months, state agencies have been dreading the moment Oklahoma lawmakers announced a budget for fiscal year 2017.
In February, state leaders announced that Oklahoma was facing a $1.3 billion shortfall, which amounts to nearly 20 percent of last year’s budget.
Since that time, state agencies across the state have been bracing for massive cuts.
State Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger ordered all agencies to take an additional four percent cut for the current fiscal year – adding to a three percent cut ordered earlier this year.
School districts across the state announced their plans for staying on budget, which mainly consisted of cutting programs, laying off teachers, increasing class sizes and even shortening the school week.
However, schools weren’t the only ones bracing for impact.
A plan by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to cut Medicaid payments to hospitals and clinics by 25 percent was met with stiff opposition.
Last month, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services alerted its employees and contractors that the agency was facing a $100 million shortfall in state funding.
On Tuesday, lawmakers released the proposed budget for the 2017 fiscal year.
The State Department of Education‘s budget actually increased for the upcoming fiscal year when you compare it to the budget that was imposed after cuts were made at the end of this fiscal year.
The agency is allotted $2,426,721,434 for the upcoming fiscal year.
However, that is still nearly $60 million shy of what was allotted at the beginning of fiscal year 2016, where it was given $2,484,873,132.
The State Regents for Higher Education was hit with an additional budget cut, even after its funding was cut by nearly 16 percent last fiscal year.
The regents’ budget is set for $810,022, 109, compared to the $963,412,106 it was allotted at the beginning of fiscal year 2016.
The Department of Transportation’s budget was not cut during the financial crisis, but its budget was slashed on Tuesday by more than 16 percent, dropping by more than $30 million to $154,958,361.
The Oklahoma Tax Commission’s budget actually rose above the previous fiscal year’s original budget.
At the beginning of fiscal year 2016, its budget was $43,395,876. The commission’s proposed budget in fiscal year 2017 is $44,336,000.
The House of Representatives and the Senate were hit with a 19 percent cut, dropping their budgets to $12,497,306 and $9,335,506 respectively.
The State Election Board’s budget jumped by 9.54 percent, which equals out to about an extra $300,000.
In a surprise move, lawmakers proposed a 183 percent increase for the Legislative Service Bureau. Its budget, which was not affected by the budget crisis, jumped from $4,892,835 at the beginning of fiscal year 2016 to $13,892,835 for fiscal year 2017.
According to the state website, the Legislative Service Bureau is responsible for serving “the Legislature by providing services as directed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.”
Gov. Mary Fallin’s budget also dropped by five percent to $1,725,051.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s budget increased by more than nine percent from the original fiscal year 2016 budget. Following the budget cuts, the agency’s budget dropped by more than $60 million. However, the agency’s budget would be reinstated under the proposed plan and would surpass the original budget by $20 million. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s proposed budget would be $991,050,514.
Much like the Department of Education, the Department of Human Services will see more money than it received following the budget cuts this year. However, it is still less than at the beginning of fiscal year 2016. DHS’ budget dropped from $678,946,518 to $635,200,261 after the $1.3 billion shortfall was announced. Under the proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, DHS would receive $651,500,262.
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission’s budget has not been affected by the cuts. It remains at $10,182,682, which was established before the shortfall.
The Insurance Commissioner, Will Rogers Memorial Commission and Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission lost all funding under the current plan.
The Department of Corrections received an extra $1 to its budget under the current plan. Earlier this year, Gov. Fallin dipped into the Rainy Day Fund to make sure the department didn’t suffer due to the budget crisis. Its budget is now $484,900,943.
The Department of Public Safety was not as lucky. It is being hit with an extra six percent cut in this year’s proposed budget. The department’s budget originally dropped from $100,309,377 to $95,142,721 during fiscal year 2016. This year’s budget would cut it even further to $89,004,563.
While some agencies received cuts to their budget, it wouldn’t have been enough to make up the shortfall.
In exchange, lawmakers passed several bills to generate revenue other ways.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to make the Earned Income Tax Credit non-refundable for the 355,000 low-income Oklahomans who receive the tax break.Officials say the measure will increase state income tax collections by about $29 million in 2017.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted to cap a rebate for oil and gas companies at $12.5 million, which is expected to save the state about $110 million.
Leaders passed legislation to do away with an income tax deduction that allows Oklahoma taxpayers to deduct state income tax they claim on their federal income tax return from their state return. Supporters say the measure will save the state an estimated $87.3 million a year for state services.