by Steve Fair
The current balance in the Rainy Day fund is $600 million and with revenues down almost twenty percent from estimates, Governor Henry, education leaders, and others are saying it’s time to declare Oklahoma a “flood” zone and tap the RDF. State Treasurer Scott Meacham has projected a $700 billion dollar shortfall by fiscal year end. Based on the guidelines for tapping the RDF, $223 million can be used immediately due to the shortfalls- more if the governor and the legislature declare an emergency.
Second, these budget shortfalls present legislative leaders with the opportunity to tackle hard issues- like closing unnecessary state agencies and revamping common education in Oklahoma by uttering the “C” word (school district consolidation). It also gives lawmakers the opportunity to observe what areas of government are really necessary, which can be cut and those agencies we can do without.
Third, if we tap the RDF this year and things get worse, where is our “safety net?” The Rainy Day Fund is there when it’s really raining, not when the forecast calls for rain. True, these are not good times, but it’s not as bad as it could get. The RDF monies have always “burnt a hole” in the pocket of government bureucrats who cry “flood” when their budgets are cut. They are never willing to tighten their belts in tough times.