Blatt estimates the budget shortfall at $800 to $850 million for fiscal year 2011. The budget would be $1.55 billion less than this year and, if no new revenue is used, could result in 12 percent cuts at state agencies, he argues. That would be in addition to recent cuts.
The results would be devastating.
His comments echo those of Gov. Brad Henry. According to a NewOK article published Wednesday, Henry said:
If we don’t do some things, and we rely totally on cuts to agencies, we will devastate state government. Virtually every agency to date through the 2010 budget has received close to a 15 percent budget cut.
Cutting agencies’ budgets even more is really a choice, Blatt argues. He writes:
… closing the budget gap through an exclusive reliance on deeper cuts is a choice, not an inevitability. Due to State Question 640 and the state’s political climate, outright tax increases may well be off the table. However, there are other revenue options out there. The Governor’s budget proposed over $700 million in revenue enhancements ranging from stepped-up tax collections and the elimination and suspension of tax credits to bond issues, revolving fund transfers, and fee increases. These proposed revenues served to limit additional budget cuts to an additional 2.5 percent, on average, above this year’s. His proposals are not the only, or necessarily in all cases the most feasible or plausible, options. But given the consequences that would follow from an exclusive reliance on cuts, they deserve a fair and full discussion.
What long-term damage will the state face if more drastic cuts are made to mental health services? How much will the state’s educational systems suffer with declining revenues? These are important questions that also deserve a “fair and full discussion.”
There have been signs recently that the economy is improving here, but it’s unlikely a recovery will happen quickly enough to prevent a major budget crisis. Legislators should set aside ideological posturing, implement Henry’s revenue enhancements and search for more ways to raise money.