The Oklahoma Policy Institute says although Oklahoma is now several years removed from the worst of the fiscal crisis that accompanied the Great Recession, the state continues to face significant budget challenges.
The director of Oklahoma's Department of Human Services is asking lawmakers to appropriate almost $33 million in state tax dollars to operate the agency through the end of June.
DHS director Ed Lake will discuss the supplemental funding request on Monday at a meeting of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Human Services.
In a letter to state officials, Lake says the agency has encountered several funding problems since the 2013 legislative session, when lawmakers approved the agency's budget for the fiscal that ends June 30.
Oklahoma legislators will begin budget briefings with various state agencies amid projections they will have about $170 million less to spend on state programs this year.
Members of House and Senate budget subcommittees will begin hearing presentations on Tuesday at the state Capitol.
State Sen. Kim David chairs the subcommittee that oversees funding for health and human services. She and her counterpart on the House subcommittee will meet with officials from nearly a dozen state agencies over the next two days.
General Revenue Fund collections have increased annually since hitting their “Great Recession” low in fiscal year 2010. Fiscal year 2013 collections totaled $5.575 billion, $1 billion more than the $4.621 billion collected in FY2010, but still remain below their pre-recession high.
Former Treasurer Scott Meacham described FY2010, his last full fiscal year as treasurer and as the man then responsible for the monthly revenue reports, as “the worst fiscal year in recent memory.”
The Oklahoma House is expected to consider a measure that would increase the amount of money Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers receive each month for an equipment allowance.
A bill expected to be considered next week would boost the troopers' monthly allowance from $150 to $300, effectively giving them an $1,800 annual raise. The bill would still need to pass both the House and Senate.
The money to pay for the increase was freed up from the Department of Public Safety's operating budget after a bill passed earlier this session to increase driver's license fees.
Oklahoma prison workers say they are worn out due to staffing shortages, low wages and the increasing prison population.
About a dozen uniformed prison guards visited the state Capitol Wednesday, urging lawmakers to reconsider their decision not to support a pay raise for workers at the Department of Corrections.
“DOC is at a breaking point,” said Sgt. David Edelman, an officer at the Lexington Assessment and Reception Center. “We are being forced to do 60-to-80 hours a week, and used to we could ask for overtime, but not anymore, we’re being forced.”
A $12 million proposal to give prison workers a five percent pay increase stalled earlier this session in a House committee.
A lawsuit by an out-of-state company that challenges a tax break on capital gains for Oklahoma-based businesses is causing some concern at the state Capitol.
An analysis on the potential costs of a tax reimbursement show Oklahoma could be on the hook for as much as $480 million if the court rules in favor of tax payers.
Republican State Rep. Jeff Hickman raised the issue during questions on a tax cut bill approved by the House last week. But budget negotiators said any repercussions of the capital gains issue should be worked out apart from the state budget.