Board of Equalization approves new FY 2011 revenue estimate
By Patrick B. McGuigan
State officials have certified an increase of $308,614,581 in revenue estimates for the upcoming fiscal year (FY). Of that, 95 percent (or $293,183,853) will be available for appropriation by the Legislature. The other 5 percent will flow to the Constitutional Reserve, better known as the Rainy Day Fund.
The action came at the Capitol today (Monday, June 21), as the constitutional Oklahoma State Board of Equalization met to recertify funds available for legislative appropriation in FY 2011, ending June 30, 2011.
The General Revenue estimate increased to $4,973,484,400, from the $4,664,869,819 approved on February 16 of this year. Today’s certification was based entirely on actions taken in the 2010 session of the Legislature.
The certification does not include potential revenue growth from modest economic improvements and the recent (three straight months) trend of increased state government tax collections. It also cannot reflect the potential for renewed economic difficulties, and lower tax revenues, if the economy enters a “double dip” recession.
A wide range of increased fees, other revenue enhancements and “cost recovery” steps are reflected in the increase, as are some changes in bond issue payouts.
In a brief session with reporters after the board meeting, Gov. Henry said he believes revenue enhancements and fee hikes he signed will withstand potential judicial review. “If I didn’t believe that, I would not have signed those measures,” Gov. Henry said today. The governor also pointed to recent state economic improvements and said he believes the budget crunch will ease as the economy continues to grow.
Some analysts, and a few political leaders, have a view different from Governor Henry’s. They have expressed concerns about some of the revenue boosts incorporated into the new revenue estimate for FY 2011.
Lawyers like Jerry Fent of Oklahoma City and Stan Ward of Norman have said some new levies are tax hikes, not fee increases. Ward is “father” of State Question 640, the historic ballot initiative that required legislative super-majorities or direct popular approval for all tax increases.
State Rep. Ken Miller of Edmond, chairman of the House Budget an Appropriations Committee and a Republican candidate for state Treasurer, explained to Randy Ellis of The Oklahoman (Sunday, June 20) his votes against two measures he considered tax hikes.
Governor Henry said the 2010 budget process was “the hardest I’ve worked on, by far.” While the governor has previously indicated the process and negotiations were challenging and difficult, it was the clearest he has been on how difficult it was to reach a constitutionally-required balanced budget.
Today’s meeting was the last of Fiscal Year 2010. Participating were Governor Brad Henry, chairman of the Board of Equalization, and members: Lt. Gov. Jari Askins, Auditor & Inspector Steve Burrage, Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett, Attorney General Drew Edmondson and Agriculture Secretary Terry L. Peach. State Treasurer Scott Meacham was unable to attend. Members of the board are statewide elected officials with the exception of Peach, who is a gubernatorial appointee.