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Oklahoma's budget hole close to $900 million

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT - Capitol Bureau Modified: February 17, 2009 at 12:19 pm •  Published: February 17, 2009
Legislators will have $612 million less to appropriate this session compared with last year, a state board agreed today.

The state Board of Equalization, made up of several state officials, certified that legislators would have about $6.4 billion to appropriate for the 2010 fiscal year, which starts July 1. Legislators last year had about $7.1 billion.

Oklahoma's budget hole is closer to $900 million because state officials last year used one-time and carryover money to balance this fiscal year's budget. Declining federal money coming into the state, mostly for Oklahoma's Medicaid program, also contributes to the budget hole. Some of that shortfall should be whittled down because the state has about $250 million in cash reserves and other money on hand.

Gov. Brad Henry also is proposing agencies cut travel expenses and reduce energy expenses by 10 percent by next year. He also is suggesting changes in how the state buys goods and handles its Internet services which could result in $45 million in savings.

Henry, chairman of the Equalization Board, said some of the more than $2.6 billion in federal stimulus money earmarked for Oklahoma also might be able to be used. But budget officials still are going through restrictions and regulations.

The governor said he hopes a 2010 budget can be crafted without calling for employees to be furloughed or to lose their jobs.

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