Rep. Earl Sears Budget Letter 2/2/2012
|The Oklahoma Constitutions
requirement that the state pass a balanced budget means our government
must live within its means, just like everyday Oklahomans.
Given that distinction, nothing affects state budgeting more than state revenues, and nothing affects state revenues more than the state economy.
From an economic standpoint, Oklahoma is growing again. Thats welcome news following three years of recession-driven state revenue shortfalls and resulting state budget reductions.
Since January 2011, Oklahomas economy has added an estimated 38,400 jobs, consumer spending has risen and the effects of the recession have continued to lessen. All sectors of the economy are showing improvement.
This growth is reflected clearly in state revenues, which are up 10.9% percent since this time last year. Certain logic might indicate that since those revenues have grown, the state budget will also grow.
In reality, thats not the case. Were not out of the woods just yet.
As Appropriations and Budget Chairman in the House of Representatives, the best case scenario I see for next fiscal year is a flat budget that looks a lot like this years budget.
For that reason, putting together next years budget wont be any easier than it was last year. It might even be a little tougher.
Most everyone who participates in the state budgeting process agrees, given the fiscal dynamics that will be at play when we begin our work upon the Legislature reconvening Feb. 6.
Chief among these dynamics is the fact that since 2008, the state has lessened its budget reductions by plugging multimillion dollar budget holes with one-time funds like federal stimulus money and cash from an array of state revolving funds.
Today, those one-time funds are gone.
Thats important to note because nearly $500 million in one-time funds were used to balance the $6.5 billion budget the state is operating under today. Due to the loss of this one-time money, projections indicate Oklahoma likely faces a $150 million differential between FY 13 revenue and the FY 12 budget even with the 5.9% increase in certified funds of this past year.
The result is we will effectively be grappling with another budget shortfall as we craft the FY 13 state budget. Thats the fiscal reality and we must acknowledge it.
We also must acknowledge that while there is positive economic growth in Oklahoma, any downturn in the national economy could have very real consequences here at home. Given this reality, we are proceeding with caution.
State agencies have been told not to expect budget increases this year. The past three years of budget reductions have been tough on these agencies, but it has often brought out the best in them. We have fantastic people working in state government who have been innovative in coming up with ways to do more with less. Well need more of that commitment and creativity going forward.
We must face these challenges and more while crafting the next state budget, but we will also have some significant opportunities.
Among them is a tax credit reform package well consider this session that could potentially put $270 to $300 million back into the fiscal year 2013 budget if fully enacted. This is a significant sum that would go a long way to canceling out the shortfall caused by the loss of one-time funds.
I served on the task force that resulted in this tax credit reform package and Im supportive of it. The reforms are sure to bring about some order that has long been lacking in our tax credit system, which should have a positive effect on next years state budget and budgets in years to come.
The Legislature is also going to continuing modernizing and streamlining government services wherever possible in order to generate savings and increase efficiency. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been saved through these efforts, so well continue to build on that success and seek more savings this session.
As A&B Chairman, my pledge remains the same as it was last year, and that is to maximize every taxpayer dollar that is spent and stay realistic about whats actually possible with the budget.
Like the vast majority of Oklahomans, state government is going to live within its means, plain and simple.
-- District 11 State Representative Earl Sears
|Wilson Elementary "Change" Character Kids|
Wilson students are finishing up the month of January learning about the character word of "change". First and second graders chose students from their classes who exemplify the trait of change.
|1st Grade Students
Who Show Change (1-27-12)
Natalie Wood, Nevaeh Richardson, Madison Tulsa, Ka Dee Ross, Sergio Escobedo, Mathew Del Monte, and Chloe Terrel
|2nd Grade Students
Who Show Change (1-27-12)
Anthony Blau, Staysha Richardson, Kelsi Thomas, Sebastien Darland, Hunter Sunday, Clayton Waltrip, Alec Smalygo, and Aaron Shiever
|Lee Ann Due (1/30/2012)|
|Free Tax Preparation|
Cherokee Nation is partnering with the Internal Revenue Service to provide free tax preparation and filing services to households with less than $50,000 in income.
Volunteers will prepare your state and federal taxes, make sure you take advantage of all tax credits for which you are eligible and electronically file your taxes for free! If you choose to have your tax refund deposited directly into your bank account, the IRS will deposit the funds within 10 days or less.
Beware of tax preparers who claim to prepare taxes for free. Some will prepare state or federal taxes for free but will charge the taxpayers for completing any additional forms that are needed to claim tax credits and may charge for electronically filing your taxes. In some cases, they will prepare state taxes at no cost but will charge for completing federal tax forms. If you choose to use a paid tax preparer to file your taxes, do not allow the preparer to provide you with a Refund Anticipation Loan or a Pre-Paid Debit Card. Both of these products allow you to walk out of the preparers office with a refund in hand, however, you are paying an interest rate of up to 1,800% to borrow your own money! By simply refusing these products and having your refund deposited directly into a bank account, you will save hundreds of dollars and will still receive your money within 10 days.
Volunteers will prepare taxes by appointment only. Please see below for a list of tax preparation locations and contact information for appointments.
Tahlequah: (918)458-0577 - Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday ** (918)456-5482 x253 Tuesday ** (918)456-5482 x246 Monday (918)207-3939 Friday ** (918)453-5524 Tuesday
Collinsville/Claremore: (918) 342-2680 Tuesday/Friday
Catoosa/Pryor: (918) 342-6807 Tuesday/Wednesday
Westville: Walk-In ONLY 1/31; 2/14; 3/6
Stilwell: (918) 456-5482 x226 Tuesday ** (918) 453-5524 Thursday
Sallisaw: (918)774-0922 x235 Tuesday ** 774-0922 x227 Monday
Jay: (918)456-5482 x256 every other Tuesday beginning 1/31
Salina: (918)479-3212 Monday
Muskogee: (918)456-5482 x246 2/17; 3/16; 4/13
Vinita: (918)207-3939 2/7; 2/28; 4/3
|-- Cara Cowan Watts 1/30/2012|