Budget & Tax

Never enough: Despite record revenues, agencies want even more

May 6, 2019

Curtis Shelton

Throughout fiscal year 2018 Oklahoma’s economy grew, leading to more than $1 billion more in total gross receipts than in the previous year and the General Revenue Fund growing by $812 million. Since 2015 the state legislature also has raised taxes and fees by an estimated $1.1 billion. This includes $610 million in revenue increases just last year.  

The General Revenue Fund provides the bulk of funding for state appropriations. The legislature used recent growth to increase the appropriated budget for fiscal year 2019 by almost $700 million compared to fiscal year 2018. Revenue collections in fiscal year 2019 have seen more of the same. Record after record has been broken for monthly receipts. State revenue has already outpaced last year’s collections by $1 billion, 65 percent of which came from economic growth, and the General Revenue Fund has grown by $708 million, with three months still left in the fiscal year.

Over the last two years Oklahoma has seen its revenue collections grow by more than $2 billion, with the General Revenue Fund growing by $1.5 billion, and yet it is still not enough to satisfy state government’s never-ending thirst for more. This year’s budget requests show Oklahoma state agencies altogether want an additional $1.99 billion in appropriations. If revenue collections continue at their current pace, the General Revenue Fund will have grown by just over $1 billion compared to last year. That means that despite record setting growth for the last 24 months, Oklahoma state government still wants over $900 million more from taxpayers.

In all likelihood, of course, the legislature will not agree to anywhere near this amount. Discussions around the budget have primarily focused on increasing funding for education and corrections, while Gov. Kevin Stitt has called for setting aside $200 million in savings. But these large budget requests do serve to illustrate the mindset of state agencies.

When nearly 30,000 Oklahomans lost their jobs and taxable income fell by $13 billion during the 2015 recession, agencies fought tooth and nail to increase spending. By and large they got their wish, with an additional $1.1 billion in recurring revenue paid for by taxpayers. No matter the circumstances, government will always want more.

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