The federal stimulus package will soften the effects of the recession on Oklahoma's budget for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. That's according to Senate Appropriations Chairman Mike Johnson following a committee briefing for the full Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
Members heard from the heads of five state agencies, including the Department of Transportation, the Department of Human Services, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the State Water Resources Board and the Department of Environmental Quality on how the stimulus funds would impact their programs and services. Approximately 20 agencies as well as county governments and municipalities are slated to receive some of the stimulus funds.
"Oklahoma will be receiving a total of $2.7 billion, most of which will flow directly to state agencies. This means in some cases, federal funds we were losing are being replaced, but it is important to remember that this package only covers two budget years," said Johnson, R-Kingfisher. "For an agency like ODOT, this means programs already in the works to replace and repair roads and bridges can continue."
Johnson warned it was premature to know what, if any strings may be attached to the federal stimulus funds, and if so, whether that could create additional difficulties. He said that's something legislators would be watching closely. Johnson also emphasized the stimulus funds were "one-time" money, meaning lawmakers and agencies should not count on those funds to continue beyond the constraints of the current package.
"That's why it is important to focus on capital, one-time projects and not use these funds for expanding programs that would result in additional costs we can't meet in the future," Johnson said. "This package can help, but if it is not directed correctly, it could hurt."