Budget & Tax

Never enough: Here come the state agency wish lists

November 25, 2019

Curtis Shelton

With Christmas approaching and holiday deals popping up all over the place, Christmas wish lists are starting to come together. It’s not only kids writing to Santa for the latest new gadget—state agencies have joined in as well.

Agencies have begun to submit their budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year. For example, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education (OSRHE) will be asking for an additional $125 million. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services’ (ODMHSAS) has requested $181 million. According to data provided by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES), 49 agencies have submitted budget requests totaling $329 million in additional state appropriations. Adding in the $125 million from the regents brings the total to $454 million.

This $454 million would come from the state’s General Revenue Fund (GRF). The only problem is that the GRF has only grown by $89 million so far this year. While we are only four months into the fiscal year, there has been no evidence the rate of economic growth will increase. If the state’s economy continues to grow near the same rate it has over the first four months, there would only be around $300 million more revenue than last year. So, with only a third of state agencies having submitted requests, they have already exceeded what could be available.

It may be common practice for the government to ask for more than what taxpayers can provide, but considering just how much the state’s coffers have grown the last two years it’s a bit more surprising. Those coffers have grown by $1.7 billion over the last two years, setting records for revenue growth each year. The General Revenue Fund grew for 28 months in a row, and yet it still isn’t enough. Magical elves would have a hard time with this sort of demand—let alone taxpayers trying to provide for themselves and their families.

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