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Anyone have $600-million we can borrow?

10:46 AM EST on February 13, 2015

mary fallin sesame street

It may be time for us to organize the world's largest bake sale.

Yesterday, The Oklahoman reported that our state's budget shortfall has doubled from $298.1 million to $611.3 million. The shortfall is a direct result of a struggling Oklahoma energy industry and the recent tax policies that their puppets in the Governor's office and legislature (pictured above) enacted for them.

Here's the story on the shortfall by

It’s official: Most Oklahomans will receive a state income tax cut in 2016.

Members of the state Board of Equalization voted unanimously Thursday to implement the tax cut, certifying that revenue projections were sufficient to trigger a cut in the state’s top income tax bracket from 5.25 percent to 5 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2016.

More than 1.7 million Oklahoma taxpayers are expected to benefit from the reduction, since Oklahoma’s top income tax bracket applies to individuals who make more than $8,700 a year or couples earning more than $15,000 a year.

The amount of the tax cut will vary with income.

For example, taxpayers with federal adjusted gross incomes of $40,000 to $44,999 a year can expect to save about $35 a year, while taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $100,000 to $149,999 a year can expect to save about $160 a year.

“I am pleased that the income tax trigger did kick in,” Gov. Mary Fallin said following the Equalization Board vote. “I think it’s important for economic growth, job attraction, job retention and letting people keep more of their hard-earned money.”

My bad. That was a 2014 Oklahoman report about the tax cut Governor Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature awarded to the state's top income earners. I sure am glad those folks earning $149,999 per year in taxable income get to keep that $160. I'm not good at Craig Humphrey's new math, but that's about $13 a month. That money is much better off in a savings account or trust fund than it is funding things like education, health and public safety, roads and bridges, and Native American Cultural Centers.

Yeah, just kidding about the Native American Cultural Center. They should just turn it into another casino. We could use the tax money.

Here's the article about the $600-million budget shortfall crisis:

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday signed legislation that will set the state’s oil and natural gas gross production tax at 2 percent for the first 36 months of production.

The new tax rate will become effective July 1, 2015, when the existing tax program is set to expire.

“The energy industry is the leading driver of economic growth and job creation in Oklahoma,” Fallin said. “Approximately one in four Oklahomans have a job and a salary because of our energy producers. They are part of the fabric of this state, and we rely on them, not just for continued growth and prosperity, but to support everything from our charity organizations to our sports teams.”

Oklahoma Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston L. Doerflinger said HB 2562 was the result of successful talks between the oil and gas industry, legislative leaders and the governor.

“The compromise we reached adequately addresses the revenue issues caused by the previous policy while still supporting oil and gas producers,” Doerflinger said. “It’s a win-win result for energy producers and the state, and I’m proud that industry and government were able to collaborate and agree on a deal that serves everyone well.”

The state historically has assessed a 7 percent tax. In 1994, the Legislature created an incentive for horizontal drilling. The incentive initially lowered the tax rate to 1 percent for the first two years or until costs were recovered. In 2002, the incentive was extended to up to four years.

The incentive program is set to expire next year, which would have returned the tax rate to 7 percent.

Oops, I did it again! I played with your heart. Got lost in the juxtaposition game. Many apologies.

That article covered the incredibly low 2% oil and natural gas gross production tax rate we gifted to the energy industry in 2014. It's considerably lower than the production taxes in other resource-rich states like Texas, North Dakota and just about anywhere else.

Finally, here's the article about the budget shortfall:

Oklahoma’s budget hole, caused in part by an oil industry decline, has doubled to more than $600 million, meaning deeper cuts to state government may be needed, state officials said Thursday.

The state Board of Equalization is to release an official state revenue estimate Tuesday, but some state elected officials got an early preview.

“The numbers aren’t finalized, but every indication shows the budget gap likely doubling,” state Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said. “Ever since oil started dropping, we have known scenarios like this could occur.”

A copy of the new estimate obtained by The Oklahoman showed the shortfall at $611.3 million. That would leave legislators with 8.5 percent less to appropriate compared to the last year. The last Board of Equalization estimate, on Dec. 18, pegged the shortfall at $298.1 million.

Gov. Mary Fallin said the state’s Rainy Day Fund was an option for helping close the hole. As much as $132 million could be pulled from the fund if needed. She has also proposed tapping $300 million in unencumbered agency accounts, so-called revolving funds, and giving 6.25 percent budget cuts to most agencies.

“Spending reductions for many state agencies are inevitable,” she said.

That's a shame. $611.3-million seems like a lot, and it will impact things like educating kids, helping sick people and fixing roads – things Oklahomans care about (just kidding). Since we've been so kind to them over the years, maybe we should ask the energy industry for some help. Perhaps they could increase drilling production or hire more people to boost income tax revenues...

An economist for the state Tax Commission has estimated that as many as 3,800 jobs in the state’s energy sector could be lost this year, said John Estus, a spokesman for the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services. That doesn’t count the ripple effect such a decline would have on other segments of the economy.

As people are laid off, the state receives less income tax revenue. Declines in the energy industry also drop production taxes paid to the state.

The revenue declines are challenging for state officials as they draw up the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. A fractional reduction in the income tax rate from 5.25 percent to 5 percent kicks in halfway through that fiscal year, also reducing state revenue.

House Speaker Jeff Hickman, R-Dacoma, said there’s no reason to consider suspending that planned reduction.

“Every time we’ve reduced the income tax rate, we’ve increased revenue,” he said.

Okay, maybe the energy companies can just help us collect aluminum cans instead... or man a table at the bake sale. We need every penny.

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