state budget

Oklahoma Watch executive editor David Fritze, Oklahoma Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services commissioner Terri White, and Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez.
Patrick Roberts / KGOU

At the Oklahoma Watch-Out public forum last month, two prominent state health officials described the impact the state budget crisis and the oil-and-gas downturn could have on residents' physical and mental health.

As the Legislature prepares to assemble in February, the state’s two primary agencies that deal with health care for the impoverished and the mentally ill are bracing for cuts to services. At the same time, losses of jobs threaten to strain physical and emotional health for families at all income levels.

Five years ago, Tonia Sina was diagnosed with a blood-clotting disorder called atypical hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Photo illustration by Brent Fuchs and Bryan M. Richter / The Journal Record

There’s no shortage of issues to address when it comes to the $900-million-and-counting budget shortfall over the next four months of legislative session.

The number could grow larger when the Board of Equalization certifies new numbers later this month. In Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive budget unveiled Monday during her State of the State address, most state agencies will see a 6 percent cut. Some, like the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, will take a smaller 3 percent hit.

Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her 2016 State of the State address Feb. 1, 2016.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

In her State of the State address on Monday, Gov. Mary Fallin called for shortened prison sentences, higher taxes on cigarettes and a $3,000 a year pay hike for all teachers.

Fallin also proposed a 6 percent cut for most state agencies in Fiscal Year 2017, with certain exceptions, and generating more revenue by eliminating some of the $8 billion in annual sales tax exemptions. Fallin's proposals come amid a budget crisis in which the state must offset a nearly $1 billion budget hole caused mainly by a plunge in oil prices. Income tax cuts have contributed to the revenue drop.

Gov. Mary Fallin delivers her 2016 State of the State address before Monday's joint session of the Oklahoma House and Senate.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin proposed bold changes to Oklahoma's budget, the criminal justice system, and said she wants lawmakers to get behind a $3,000 pay raise for teachers during her 2016 State of the State address.

The $900 million-and-counting budget shortfall lawmakers will have to deal with hangs over everything this session, but Fallin remained optimistic even as she cited a two-year, 70 percent drop in oil prices that's affected state revenue.

"We can do it," the governor repeated.

Oklahoma Capitol
Drew Tarvin / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Oklahoma lawmakers will face at least a $900 million budget shortfall, spending cuts, and a teacher shortage when it convenes Monday.

State Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, state Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and University of Oklahoma political scientist Keith Gaddie joined KGOU’s Jacob McCleland to talk about issues the legislature will address in its 2016 session.


Gov. Mary Fallin during her 2015 State of the State address Feb. 2, 2015.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Monday afternoon Gov. Mary Fallin will deliver a State of the State address unlike any since she took office five years ago. Oil and gas prices, around which the state economy revolves, are at their lowest point since 2003, and the declining production tax revenue has left lawmakers with a $900-million-and-counting budget hole to plug.

The Bizzell Memorial Library at the University of Oklahoma
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

The University of Oklahoma Board of Regents unanimously approved a $20 million budget reduction plan Thursday morning.

In his proposal, President David Boren says OU has absorbed more than $80 million dollars in cuts and unfunded fixed cost increases since 2008.

The proposal includes a voluntarily retirement incentive that's expected to save $10 million. The other $10 million would come from eliminating vacant faculty and staff positions, and reducing purchasing and travel expenses in department budgets.

Jet Stein with the OWRB's lake monitoring program prepares to test the water at Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Water contaminated by algae blooms or choked by sediment and pollutants kills wildlife and isn’t healthy for humans. It’s up to the state to make sure Oklahoma’s lakes and rivers are safe, but budget cuts are threatening that mission, officials say.

Water Funding Roller Coaster

Oklahoma Water Resources Board project coordinator Jason Murphy samples water in the frigid Canadian River east of Oklahoma City.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma's economy runs on oil. The energy industry drives 1 in 5 jobs and is tied to almost every type of tax source, so falling oil prices have rippled into a state budget crisis.

Crude oil prices have dropped more than 70 percent, and that's created problems across government agencies in Oklahoma. Jason Murphy is a project coordinator for the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. He slides on a pair of waders, unspools a sensor probe and splashes into the frigid Canadian River east of Oklahoma City.

Children play in a small tributary of the Illinois River near Tahlequah, Okla., in May 2015.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oil and gas are endangering the Oklahoma’s streams, soil and wetlands. Not by polluting them, but because plummeting oil prices have blown a billion-dollar hole in the state’s budget. Funding cuts at agencies that manage Oklahoma’s natural resources could threaten the state’s beauty, as well as people’s lives and property, officials say.

Oklahoma state Capitol
LLudo / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Income tax cuts approved by governors and legislators of both parties over the past decade reduced this year’s state revenue collections by more than $1 billion, according to an independent data analysis.

The calculation by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington suggests that past income tax cuts contributed significantly to the state’s current budget shortfall. State officials have tended to place most of the blame on falling oil prices.

Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Another $19 million could be cut from Oklahoma’s public schools as early as next month, potentially raising the total mid-year revenue reduction to $66 million.

The additional cut would fall on top of $47 million in cuts enacted last week by the state Board of Education, acting on advice from state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

high school library
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Due to Oklahoma’s revenue failure, the state Board of Education was mandated to cut expenses to K-12 education by $47 million. At a special board meeting held Thursday, Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said these cuts could seriously impact some school districts.

“We do anticipate that some school districts will have a very hard time remaining open,” she said.

In January 2015, drought stricken Waurika Lake was dangerously low.
Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

There’s a $1 billion hole in the state budget that has consequences for Oklahoma’s environment and natural resources. A controversial state question could pit farmer against farmer. The ground beneath Oklahoma is shaking — figuratively and literally in 2016 — and StateImpact is on it.

Finance secretary Preston Doerflinger (left), House Speaker Jeff Hickman (center), and State Sen. Clark Jolley (right) address the budget situation and revenue failure during a Deember 17, 2015 news conference at the state Capitol.
Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma budget officials sounded a dire financial alarm this week – low oil prices have driven state government revenues to failure.

Lawmakers and state finance officials say a projected $900 million hole in next year's state-appropriated budget could grow closer to $1.1 billion when adjusted for one-time expenditures used to plug a hole in the current state budget.

Those numbers will be officially presented to the state Board of Equalization on Monday. Three of the state’s top finance leaders met with reporters at the state Capitol on Thursday to detail the shortfall.