Collinsville, Oklahoma
February 4, 2012
Miscellaneous News
Oklahoma Budget Analysis By Rep. Earl Sears /
Tax Help /
"Change" Kids

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Copyright 2012 -- Collinsville, Oklahoma
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Rep. Earl Sears Budget Letter 2/2/2012
The Oklahoma Constitution’s 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. That’s welcome news following three years of recession-driven state revenue shortfalls and resulting state budget reductions.
Since January 2011, Oklahoma’s 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, that’s not the case. We’re 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 year’s budget.
For that reason, putting together next year’s budget won’t 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.
That’s 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. That’s 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. We’ll 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 we’ll 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 I’m 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 year’s 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 we’ll 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 what’s 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

Elizabeth A. Searock
Legislative Assistant to
Representative Earl Sears
Chairman, Appropriations & Budget Committee
Oklahoma House of Representatives
2300 North Lincoln Blvd., Room 432-D
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
Office: (405)521-2711, ext 289
Fax: (405)522-3967

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 preparer’s 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