Back in December, the State Board of Equalization met to give its initial certification as to how much revenue would be available to appropriate for the fiscal year 2021 budget, which begins on July 1 of this year. At that time, we knew oil and gas prices were coming in lower than had been projected. As a result, the board said we’d basically have a flat budget for 2021.
The board met again this past week, and those oil and gas prices have continued to impact revenues. With the updated revenue information, the board certified instead of a flat budget, Oklahoma would have $85.5 million less to spend—a decrease of one percent.
Fortunately, we’ve been working these past several years to reform the budgeting process and better prepare the state for the inevitable changes in the economy. Last year we deposited $200 million in the Revenue Stabilization Fund, an account created in 2016 specifically to help Oklahoma better navigate the volatility of oil and gas prices. Combined with the state’s Rainy Day Fund, we have a total savings of about $1 billion.
We will continue to take a fiscally conservative approach to the budget, and that must include being extremely thoughtful in how we utilize one-time money—funds that may be available in one budget year but not necessarily in the next. Those types of funds must never be used for ongoing expenses—that’s a key fiscal approach to preventing an even larger budget shortage in subsequent years.
Meanwhile, work continued both in committee and on the floor as we debated and voted on legislation. This past week the full Senate passed a compromise bill on how Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are regulated in the state, a major victory for rural Oklahoma where CRNAs are often the only providers for critical access hospitals and other healthcare centers. All of the stakeholders, including the Oklahoma Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists, the Oklahoma State Medical Association and the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association have endorsed the bill, which passed unanimously and now moves to the House of Representatives.
Committees have also been debating and voting on dozens of bills each day as we quickly approach the February 27 deadline for committee work on bills introduced in the Senate. The Health and Human Services Committee voted on legislation raising the age for tobacco from 18 to 21, ensuring our law mirrors federal changes approved by President Trump in December. Legislation was also passed out of committee ensuring statutory authority for municipalities and counties to ban the smoking or vaping of marijuana in public areas where tobacco is banned.
I’ve also attended other events in the district and here at the Capitol in recent days.
I want to thank America Farmers and Ranchers—the organization recently honored me as this year’s Senate AFR Agriculture Advocacy award winner. I also had the opportunity to attend Governor Stitt’s prayer breakfast this past week—it was awesome and inspirational. Powers Abstract from Perry came to the Capitol, and I was also happy to meet with Oklahoma Close UP student Amber Isaac from Mannford. We also welcomed students from Guthrie, Coyle, Pawnee and Edmond who were here for FFA day at the Capitol. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to visit us—it’s always great to welcome people from back home in District 20.
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be your voice in the Oklahoma Senate. Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.