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Oklahoma Governor To Consider January Special Session

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Most state agencies have already been forced to cut up to 24 percent from the budget for this fiscal year. For the first time, Governor Henry says he's open to using the Rainy Day Fund to prevent future cuts. Most state agencies have already been forced to cut up to 24 percent from the budget for this fiscal year. For the first time, Governor Henry says he's open to using the Rainy Day Fund to prevent future cuts.
Tulsa Public Schools has already cut $2.5 million from its budget. Tulsa Public Schools has already cut $2.5 million from its budget.
“If they don't use the Rainy Day Fund and if schools have to take a 10% cut, which is what it could be, that would be $13 million for TPS and that is an impossible situation,” said Dr. Keith Ballard. “If they don't use the Rainy Day Fund and if schools have to take a 10% cut, which is what it could be, that would be $13 million for TPS and that is an impossible situation,” said Dr. Keith Ballard.

By Dan Bewley and Scott Thompson, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Governor Brad Henry says he's open to the idea of a legislative special session in January because of what he calls continued uncertainty in the state's fiscal forecasts.

Henry said in a statement Tuesday that ultimate budget decisions will depend on revenue estimates from next month's meeting of the state Board of Equalization.

Read Governor's news release.

Governor Henry may also be softening his stance on dipping into the state's Rainy Day Fund.

Most state agencies have already been forced to cut up to 24 percent from the budget for this fiscal year. For the first time, Governor Henry says he's open to using the Rainy Day Fund to prevent future cuts.

Tulsa Public Schools has already cut $2.5 million from its budget. Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard has one word to describe what could be looming in the future:

“Catastrophic,” said Dr. Keith Ballard, TPS Superintendent.

It's not just TPS. Small districts are also looking at shrinking budgets. Barnsdall, for example, cut $15,000 in October alone.

“If they don't use the Rainy Day Fund and if schools have to take a 10% cut, which is what it could be, that would be $13 million for TPS and that is an impossible situation,” said Dr. Keith Ballard.

Now Governor Brad Henry says he may be open to using the state's $600 million Rainy Day Fund to help soften the blow of the sagging economy. He says the school cuts and others, such as the $7.4 million dropped from a program to help feed the state's senior citizens, are evidence that the state is in troubled times. 

Henry wants to reexamine the state's revenue estimate, get public input on budget reductions and explore the idea of holding a special session to dip into the Rainy Day Fund.

“I think we need to be prudent in the use of those dollars. I think we need to save as many of those Rainy Day dollars as we can for the 2011 budget,” said Governor Henry.

Critics say it's that future budget that would pay if the state uses the Rainy Day Fund now.

Oklahomans for Responsible Government says, "Oklahoma families dealing with similar problems to their personal budgets are taking the proper action of cutting spending to bare-bones levels. They aren't depleting their savings accounts to go on resort vacations."

But Dr. Keith Ballard says the emergency is right now and hopes Governor Henry takes advantage of the Rainy Day Fund before it's too late.

The state has more than a million dollars in stimulus money to help stabilize the budget, but Governor Henry says the state used half of that money for this year's budget and held the other half in reserve.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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