| January 24, 2011

Hundreds of millions of dollars less? I'm not following you

The legislature has begun agency performance-review hearings, where appropriation subcommittees review agency budget requests and agency performance during current and past fiscal years. These meetings are designed to provide lawmakers with information they need to determine agency appropriations (which will be set during the legislative session) for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

In an article that ran in The Oklahoman on January 16, Brandy Manek, state budget director for the Office of State Finance, reported that state agency requests for the 2012 fiscal year total about $1.5 billion more than the $6.3 billion in state funds appropriated for this fiscal year.

Yes, you read that correctly. Oklahomans have been hearing for months that we will have less revenue (perhaps $400 million to $600 million), and the response of some 50 state agencies is to ask for a combined $1.5 billion more than what was available last year.

This would be like if your boss told you (and all other managers in the firm) that company revenues were down for the year and everyone needed to make cuts. Then you turn around and ask your boss, “Can my division spend 25 percent more this year?” Or if you discovered that you just lost your job and your spouse asks you, “Can we start shopping at Saks 5th Avenue for all of our clothes?”

What part of “$400-$600 million less” is so difficult to understand? It is this unrealistic response to an undeniable reality that drives taxpayers nuts. Thank goodness lawmakers and Governor Fallin are requiring agencies to submit plans on how they will absorb cuts in these meetings. Can you imagine the increases in spending that would be requested if they were not?

Fortunately, the majority of Oklahoma’s tax payers have a firm grip on reality, even if some tax users don’t. The tax payers want a smaller government with fewer services.

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