Time running out on closing budget gap in shale-rich Oklahoma

Oklahoma governor says the 'clock is ticking' toward serious budget problems even as the oil market helps the state economy recover.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |  Oct. 6, 2017 at 6:01 AM
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Oct. 6 (UPI) -- The governor of shale-rich Oklahoma said time is running out to address budget problems, even as the state treasurer said oil market recovery has led to gains.

"There is no budget deal," Gov. Mary Fallin said.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, who is running to fill Fallin's seat after she leaves office on term limits, said Thursday afternoon there was a bipartisan agreement to raise sin taxes, cut a tax on wind energy producers and raise the rate for gross production taxes. Fallin responded by saying that maybe there were agreements on common goals, but if there were a budget deal, should would've announced it herself.

Fallin called lawmakers to a special session in late September to address budget strains she said were critical. By her estimate, the state could face a $500 million shortfall next year because one-time funds were used to balance the books for the current fiscal year. On some of the proposals, like a higher tax on cigarettes, the governor said they fell short because they would be implemented too late in the fiscal year.

The governor said she was frustrated with the lack of progress nearly two weeks after the start of the special session. "The clock is ticking toward some very serious consequences," she said.

Fallin's warning came just as State Treasurer Ken Miller said the recovery in the market for crude oil has led to sustained economic recovery for the shale-rich state.

Miller's office reported gross production tax revenue for September was about 60 percent higher than the same time last year. Over the past 12 months, gross production taxes are 41.8 percent higher than the previous period. Across all sectors in Oklahoma, gross receipts for September are higher than last year by 7.7 percent. Over the last 12 months, only corporate income tax receipts declined.

Miller's office explained that data on gross receipts helps with budget planning.

"The general revenue fund receives less than half of the state's gross receipts with the remainder paid in rebates and refunds, remitted to cities and counties, and placed into off-the-top earmarks to other state funds," it said.

Oklahoma is home to about 4 percent of the total petroleum reserves in the country and accounts for as much as 5 percent of the total crude oil production.

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