Budget & Tax

Curtis Shelton | February 2, 2023

State agency wish lists are long

Curtis Shelton

With the Oklahoma state legislative session upon us, the final revenue estimate for the appropriations budget will be made official in the next few weeks. Based on the estimate made in December, it is expected the Legislature will have a record amount of revenue with which to craft this year’s budget.

State agencies are aware of this, and that is reflected in the budget requests that have been submitted this year. In total, state agencies requested an additional $886 million for fiscal year 2024 (which runs from July 1, 2023 to June 30, 2024). It’s helpful to think of agency budget requests more like a Christmas wish list than an actual operating budget. Just because your kids ask for something for Christmas doesn’t mean they’re going to get it. The same goes for state agencies. They can ask, but it’s ultimately up to the Legislature how much money each agency ends up with.

The budget requests OCPA received (see the embedded document below) were received before the change to the state Department of Education’s budget request that reduced the agency’s request by $60 million (we’ll come back to this)—moving the total request from all state agencies to $826 million in new funding. That $826 million is $165 million more than what was requested last year, even after the Legislature passed a budget last year increasing spending by $850 million.

As you can see, the Department of Education asked for the most additional money, followed by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, OMES, CareerTech, and the Department of Commerce.

The fact that these are requests for new funding was apparently lost on some people. After the Department of Education submitted its amended budget request, there were false claims that the new request was actually a budget cut for the agency. But that is not the case. Indeed, this year’s budget request by the Department of Education asks for more money than the last two years of requests combined.

Again, it's helpful to think of these requests like a Christmas wish list. Saying the new budget request is a cut would be like your kids—after opening all their new gifts (but not getting everything they asked for)—claiming that you actually took some toys away from them.

If we were to use that same logic, then over the last two years the Legislature has cut the Department of Education’s budget by $99 million. In truth, however, the department’s appropriations have grown by $189 million (a substantial amount, albeit $99 million less than the $288 million the agency had requested).

Curtis Shelton Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton

Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

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