Rainy Day Fund tapped

Gov. Mary Fallin and legislative leaders have agreed to siphon about $78,500,000.00 from the state rainy day fund to benefit public education and the prison system.
The deal is designed to offset cuts in the current budget due to declining state revenues.

The Department of Education will get about $51,000,000.00 while the Department of Corrections gets about $27,500,000.00.

“All of us can agree that four-day school weeks and draconian cuts to corrections are not acceptable and are not going to happen,” said Fallin.

“The Rainy Day Fund is there for emergencies and right now it’s pouring in Oklahoma,” said Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “Tapping the Rainy Day Fund is the right way to lessen the impact of these cuts on students and teachers, and prevents dramatic cuts at prisons.”

“Last year we had $611 million less to build our budget than the year before and we didn’t cut funding for our public schools,” said House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Fairview. “That meant higher cuts to other agencies in order to not cut education, but protecting education as a priority was the tough decision the Republican leadership of this state made.”

Legislation authorizing the withdrawal of the Rainy Day Fund money should be completed this week. Joe Allbaugh, interim DOC director, said the emergency funds will help allow his agency to make it through June 30, the end of this fiscal year.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) has a budget reduction plan due to the latest round of budget cuts announced last week.

A total of $4.2 million dollars must be cut from the OSDH budget by the end of June. In preparation for continued budget cuts in State Fiscal Year 2017, the agency is recommending the closure of five to seven county health department sites. For those who are able to travel the distance, regional services will be provided.

OSDH has also offered an incentive to retirement eligible employees to retire in this year which will result in the elimination of approximately 90 positions, creating savings in the next fiscal year.

The Senate has passed Senate Joint Resolution 44, authored by Sen. David Holt, by a vote of 46-1. The legislation, approved last week, would give the people of Oklahoma the opportunity to measure the current 15 percent cap on the state’s Rainy Day Fund against the total state budget of approximately $24 billion. Currently, the Rainy Day Fund’s 15 percent cap is measured against the artificially smaller number of “general revenue fund certification” that was just $5.6 billion for the most recent budget, less than a quarter of the dollar amount actually spent by the state.