There are many positive things about Oklahoma that attract people to our state. Our population continues to grow and our quality of life continues to improve. Growth does not come without challenge, especially during troubled economic times. However, Oklahomans by nature are resilient people. They have looked adversity in the eye many times and prevailed. I am confident that we will prevail once again as we move through the next couple of years.
Thompson Roger 1It is certainly refreshing to experience lower gas prices at the pump. We have all enjoyed the lower prices and putting more expendable income in our pockets. However, behind the lower fuel prices is an industry that has experienced a dramatic downturn in the last year. Oil prices have dropped from over $100 per barrel to less than $34 per barrel this past week. As a result, over 12,000 oilfield related jobs have disappeared in Oklahoma this last year. This means not only the decrease in tax revenue on oil and gas, but the loss of taxes on purchases these families would be making if they were still gainfully employed. Oklahoma is an oil and gas state and our economy flows with the highs and lows of the industry. While this is not all of the cause for the recent drop in state revenue, it is a major portion of it.
The State board of Equalization met on December 21 and certified the proposed revenue for Fiscal Year 2017. The grand total certified for authorized expenditures this coming year is $6,059,238,267. That is down from $6,960,071,990 for a deficiency of $900,833,723 from the previous year. I predict that number will grow to approximately $1.2 or $1.3 billion by February. I believe a business as usual approach is no longer possible for Oklahoma.
In the upcoming legislative session, it will be absolutely necessary for the legislature and the governor to make some very difficult decisions. Out of 70 state agencies that receive appropriations, the vast majority of all state appropriated dollars, about 91 percent, goes to just 12 agencies. These include the State Department of Education which funds our public schools; the State Regents for Higher Education, our state colleges and universities; the Department of Career and Technology Education, which fund the state’s CareerTechs; Public Safety; Corrections; the Department of Juvenile Affairs; District Courts; Oklahoma Health Care Authority; Department of Health; Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse; and the Department of Human Services.
In my opinion, it is time for more than just a temporary solution by taking money from the rainy day fund or revolving accounts to solve this problem. I believe we must enter into a serious discussion on how we operate as a government with long term efficiency. This will take many hours of consideration by all members of both the executive and legislative branches. It will also take the resolve of all citizens as we make the necessary difficult choices to make sure that we are serving the needs of the people first. We need to streamline the way we do business in all categories including the top 12 agencies.
Yes, 2016 will be a challenging year, but it will also be a year of opportunities for us to think outside the box. It is a year for us to put the people and not programs first in Oklahoma. We are a government that is of the people, by the people and for the people.
I appreciate your input, so please feel free to contact my Capitol office regarding legislative issues or other questions about government. You can call 405.521.5588 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thank you.