OKLAHOMA CITY Senate leadership on Wednesday were cautiously optimistic about next years budget after a state board certified an estimated $612 million in new funding for the upcoming budget year.
However, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and Senate Appropriations Chairman Roger Thompson both said lawmakers and the public should not set unattainable expectations for next year.
Our financial picture is improving in Oklahoma thanks to a recovering economy and tough choices made by the Legislature, said Treat, R-Oklahoma City. Im optimistic about 2019 but want expectations to be realistic. Even though the preliminary estimate shows growing revenue, there are many existing obligations and priorities heading into next year. Senate Republicans will keep our commitment to teachers and want to build on the huge investment made in education last year. There are other critical needs the Legislature will prioritize and balance as we work on the budget.
Senator Thompson, R-Okemah, said the new revenues will be helpful but wont cover the growing list of budget requests from state agencies.
Its great news to anticipate growing revenue coming into the state, but we cant overlook the expenses that must be covered. Before the first budget bill is even considered, the state has obligations like bond indebtedness, the ad valorem reimbursement fund, and replacing lost federal dollars that went to our states teaching hospitals, Thompson said. Agencies continue to hand in their budget requests for next year. Not every request is in but the total amount of budget increases being sought by agencies already exceeds the total amount of estimated new revenue. Senate Republicans have been at work on the next year's budget since August and well keep working hard to make sure were investing those new dollars in ways that reap a great return and provide maximum benefit for Oklahoma.
The Board of Equalization is comprised of the governor, lieutenant governor, state treasurer, attorney general, state superintendent of education, the state auditor, and the secretary of agriculture. The board meets to approve the certified amount of revenue available to spend in the state budget.