The OK Policy Blog had an insightful post this week that questions whether there really is a state budget deal for this fiscal year.
Earlier, Gov. Brad Henry and legislative leaders announced a plan to balance this year’s budget with, among other sources and cuts, money from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. OK Policy Blog points out what appears to be a disconnect between Henry and House Speaker Chris Benge, a Tulsa Republican, on how much Rainy Day money will be used to shore up the budget.
According to the post:
. . . what this uncertainty reveals is that this year’s budget cannot be fully resolved until there is a deal on next year’s budget. The budget negotiators are looking at a total pool of potentially available funds – including state tax revenues, federal stimulus dollars, reserve funds, and possible new revenues from other sources – that need to be stretched to cover the remaining months of FY ’10 and all of FY ’11. Revenue decisions will also be closely linked to decisions about how deeply to cut agency budgets in FY ’11. Until the whole picture is drawn at least in outline, it doesn’t seem like there can be agreement on the size of each of the parts or how they fit together.
Meanwhile, some Democratic legislators are advocating for a shorter session this year to save money because of the budget crisis. One of those advocating for a shorter session is State Sen. Earl Garrison, a Muskogee Democrat. In a prepared statement published on the legislature’s web site, he said:
I’ve talked with the people in my district and they want to know what we are doing to share in their pain. For months legislative leaders have said we need to tighten our belts, just like Oklahoma families, and I couldn’t agree more, and one way to do that is by cutting session short.
Cutting the session short would allow us to by-pass these wasteful practices and allow us to concentrate on fixing the problems related to this budget crisis. People are tired of Legislators doing nothing while their families are hurting and this sends the right message that we want to get our job done in an efficient manner.
Overall, Garrison and some other Democrats want the legislature to focus on budget-related legislation and then adjourn. The money saved could be used to restore funding to the state’s senior nutrition programs, Garrison said.
State Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, an Oklahoma City Republican, quickly rejected the idea.
“While shortening the session to two months is a laudable goal that sounds good, the reality is we have no idea what level of revenues we’ll have through the end of the fiscal year in June, which directly impacts the current FY 2010 budget, not to mention the challenges we face in crafting the FY 2011 budget,” Coffee said in a prepared statement published online.
As I wrote last week in the Oklahoma Gazette, this year’s legislative session could become more contentious than usual because of the budget crisis.
(This was initially posted on Okie Funk–Kurt Hochenauer)