OPINION

State receipts hit historically high levels

Sen. Bill Coleman

We’re continuing work for the upcoming session, which will kick off on Monday, Feb. 7. Friday, Dec. 10 was the deadline to get our bill requests submitted to staff. By the deadline, nearly 1,250 bills had been requested in the Senate. Not all of these will get filed, as often times, staff discovers that a request has already been made by other legislators, is already in statute or the member simply decides not to pursue the issue. Lots of things can happen between now and session with bills.

To keep everyone on track, we have two more bill deadlines next month. We must have our specific language or information for our requests to staff by Thursday, Jan. 6. This way, they’re not overwhelmed right before the bill filing deadline, which is Thursday, Jan. 20.

Besides the bills being filed, we’ll also see some carryover legislation from last session since this is the Second Session of the 58th Legislature. As long as a bill wasn’t voted down, it can be reconsidered this coming session. While there are hundreds that carried over, historically most of them won’t get a hearing. However, there is still some good legislation from last session that needs to be addressed.

Work on the budget is also ongoing. The state Board of Equalization (BOE) will release their preliminary revenue estimate at the end of this month. This constitutional board certifies how much revenue will be available to the Legislature each session. The governor uses this initial amount for his budget proposal that he’ll share with Oklahomans in his State of the State Address on the first day of session. The board will then review the numbers and release an updated amount in mid-February, which the Legislature is constitutionally bound to use for the annual state budget.

Both the recent General Revenue Fund (GRF) collections and gross receipts have shown tremendous economic growth in our state. The November GRF collections topped $600 million, which is nearly $150 million, or over 33%, higher than the monthly estimate. The collections for the first five months of the new fiscal year were just over $441 million, or more than 17%, above the estimate, and nearly $225 million, or 8%, higher than the 2020 collections for the same time period. These amounts are used by the state agencies and Legislature for budget planning.

The gross receipts are tallied by the treasurer’s office to give a broader view of the state’s economy. The General Revenue Fund, which is our state’s main operating account, receives less than half of the state’s gross receipts. The remainder is apportioned to other state funds, remitted to cities and counties, and paid in rebates as refunds.

All major revenue streams in November increased, pushing state gross receipts to historic highs. At nearly $1.2 billion, the November gross receipts were up nearly 23% while the 12-month receipts saw a 13% increase, totaling nearly $15 billion. Our economy is growing, and State Treasurer Randy McDaniel says all indicators are showing that this trend should continue.

Another healthy economy indicator is the Oklahoma Business Conditions Index, which was set just above 62 in November. Anything above 50 indicates potential expansion in the upcoming three to six months.

Our state is still facing two problems that are hampering our economic strength and that is continued interruptions to the supply chain as well as a lack of employees in the service industry and others. The “Help Wanted” signs continue to be everywhere, but we’re not sure where all of those previous employees have gone.

This was a topic of Senate and House interim studies and will be part of ongoing discussions as we try to figure out how to get people to return to the workforce. We must find a way to help our businesses fill these positions for their continued success.

I hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. If I can be of any assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me at (405) 521-5581 or Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.