Saved for a rainy day: The $319 million difference
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Published: 01-Feb-2010

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: Feb. 01, 2010

Conflict over use of reserve funds now seems likely this legislative session. Although legislative Democrats will play an important role, the clash that began Monday was between Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry, a Democrat, and Republicans in the House and Senate. Disagreement centers around how much of the state’s voter-approved Constitutional Reserve should be used to fill in the state budget.

The conflict amounts to as much as $319 million – but perhaps $67.6 million less than that if fiscal year 2011 is considered separately.

Governor Henry’s executive budget, presented Monday afternoon, anticipates spending down $485,565,496 of the Constitutional Reserve, better known as the Rainy Day Fund. That money would go for fiscal year 2010 supplementals and to fill in some budget shortfall.

Henry’s budget projects another $67,594,528 in “Rainy Day” expenditures for the FY 2011 budget. The total of roughly $553 million is much higher than stated Republican intentions to spend no more than $234 million from the reserve.

Gov. Henry’s total recommendation for spending down the reserve would leave $43 million for the next budget cycle. In a meeting with reporters Monday afternoon, Treasurer Scott Meacham stressed the totals were not the result of negotiations with Republican leaders of the House and Senate.

The total in Henry’s executive budget is in fact much higher than Republican leaders are willing to support this session, CapitolBeatOK has learned.

Monday evening, in response to a question from this reporter, Jennifer Monies from the office of House Speaker Chris Benge said, “Our position is we do not plan to spend more than 3/8ths, or $234 million, out of Rainy Day for FY10.”

Randy Swanson, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Temp Glenn Coffee, an Oklahoma City Republican, told CapitolBeatOK, “We envision a Rainy Day balance much higher than what the governor is projecting in his budget.”

Last fall, the office of Attorney General Drew Edmondson, responding to a question posed by state Treasurer Scott Meacham, said the legal conditions existed necessary to allow spending all of the Rainy Day Fund. CapitolBeatOK broke that story after an exclusive interview with Treasurer Meacham.

In a statement earlier today (Monday, February 1), Speaker Benge, a Tulsa Republican said,  “As the governor said today, the budget will dominate this legislative session, and we intend to work in a fiscally responsible way to craft a budget that protects vital government services through strategic cuts while finding savings and efficiencies where possible to balance our budget.”


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