Financial prudence remains important for Oklahoma
The historic winter weather last week put a halt to legislative work. For the safety of staff, the Senate was closed Monday through Wednesday (Feb. 15-17). With the committee deadline quickly approaching, we resumed work Thursday with full committee and floor agendas.
We have nearly 800 Senate bills remaining in committee. More than 200 of those bills must go through Appropriations. For this reason, we suspended rules and extended the deadline to finish work in this committee to Thursday, March 4.
The Board of Equalization went ahead and met on Tuesday of last week and certified the revenues for the Fiscal Year 2022 budget. The legislature will have just over $9.6 billion to spend. This is $1.1 billion, or 14%, more than the $8.5 billion certified in December. However, the certification also includes around $1.7 billion in one-time funds, so it’s important we don’t depend too heavily on that money as it may not be available in FY’23.
These one-time funds mostly include federal CARES money and carry-over money not appropriated in the current fiscal year. Not knowing what’s going to happen in the future with the energy sector, pandemic federal assistance and other factors, I think it’d be wise to put some of our state revenues into savings or simply not appropriate the full amount. We spent much less than we could have last session out of caution, and we now have the choice of giving that back to agencies this budget year or rolling it into the new budget. We must proceed cautiously and be mindful that we’ll only have $7.9 billion in reoccurring revenue.
As we continue work on the budget, we have nearly $1 billion in obligations that must be addressed. These include the voter-approved Medicaid expansion, which could cost up to $200 million annually, $115 million for property tax reimbursements and another $600 million in one-time funds that were used for the current budget that must be replaced.
While the Senate was closed, I did go to the Capitol on Tuesday of last week to prepare for committee work. To make up for the three days we were closed, all of last week’s committee meetings were moved to Thursday and Friday. Typically, we return to our districts on Friday to meet with constituents, but we need to get our committee and floor work done.
I had two bills reported out of Appropriations. SB 394 raises the amount of excluded equity allowance for vehicles relating to the determination of resources available to meet the needs of a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicant or recipient from $5,000 to $10,000.
SB 609 provides that the minimum investment into real property must be valued at a minimum of $500,000 to qualify for the investment income tax exemption for 2022. The amount will increase annually based on the previous year’s increase in the Consumer Price Index-All Urban Consumers.
To qualify for the exemption using newly created jobs, the bill requires corporations to maintain an average annualized wage, which equals or exceeds the average wage requirement in the Oklahoma Quality Jobs Program Act for the year in which the real or personal property was placed into service, depending on location. Additionally, it expands eligibility for the program to include facilities engaged in the manufacturing, compounding, processing or fabrication of materials into articles of tangible personal property.
Please mark your calendars for my town hall meetings on Friday, Feb. 26. We’ll be meeting at 7 a.m. at Mary’s Grill in Tonkawa, in Newkirk at 9:30 a.m. at the Main Street office, and in Ponca City at noon in the Summit Room at City Central. I hope you can join us.
In closing, I want to applaud the entire community of Ponca City who pulled together to help those in need of warmth during the record cold temps and snowy conditions. It touched my heart to see so many get involved to help those without shelter. I’m very proud of everyone in Senate District 10 who help our neighbors in times of need. Oklahoma truly is a special place because of the extraordinary people who live here.
You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.