Monday, Governor Mary Fallin ordered a freeze on hiring and pay raises for state workers. She said trouble in the oil and gas industry factored in to her executive order.
Fallin made several stops around Tulsa Monday; her last stop was to speak with oil and gas industry workers, where she told the crowd the state is dealing with some of the same financial problems.
“I am thrilled that Oklahoma's been able to make some great strides in our infrastructure, especially our pipeline infrastructure,” Fallin said.
Despite the progress made in some areas, she told a packed house at the Tulsa Pipe Liners Club meeting that the state is bracing for at least a $300 million shortfall come July.
Fallin said the state needs to do a better job of ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely, so she's ordered a hiring and pay raise freeze for all state workers.
But, she said, some positions can still be filled, they'll just have to go through a higher approval process, by a cabinet secretary or statewide elected official.
“I think it'll make a difference. I think there needs to be accountability and transparency and we need to scrutinize and have oversight over how we spend our money in state government,” Fallin said.
The governor said there's a structural issue with the budget, explaining the majority of the money is assigned before legislature can start allocating.
“You have one dollar that we collect in revenues for the state, but by the time you take out all the money that goes to tax incentives, tax credits, money that's already dedicated to a specific purpose, we literally only get 47 cents of that dollar that's available for the legislature and myself to be able to allocate during the legislative session,” Fallin said.
She said a shortfall was anticipated before the oil industry's downturn but its descent is now hitting the state's budget, too.
“We're hoping that the energy sector will come back quicker, but there's no way of knowing because this is an international event that's occurring with the price of a barrel of oil,” the governor said.
Education and higher education employees are not included in the hiring freeze.
Just two weeks ago, the state superintendent said she was recommending a pay raise for teachers, however, Fallin said it's going to be challenging to hand out any pay raises in 2015.