Oklahoma revenue down in March, budget cuts continue

Tuesday, April 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- State tax collections declined again in March, forcing state finance officials Tuesday to move forward with plans to reduce state agency budgets by 13.74% a month through June.

The $290 million collected by the general revenue fund last month was about $1.3 million less than collections in March 2002 and represents the 15th consecutive month that revenue has been below prior year collections, officials said.

Although collections were down, the state received enough revenue to avoid the need for higher budget cuts, said Scott Meacham, director of the Office of State Finance.

Finance officials increased budget reductions last month to an annualized rate of 7.85%. Last month's agency allocations were reduced about 11% from original budget amounts. Allocations for April, May and June will be reduced 13.74%.

"Without dramatic improvement in our revenue collections, we have no choice but to move forward with the budget reduction schedule," Meacham said. Revenue collections last month were about 12 percent below the finance office's estimate.

Finance officials implemented the first budget cut of the current fiscal year in September at an annualized rate of 4.75%. The level was increased to 6.5% in December. At 7.85%, cuts to the general revenue fund total $352 million.

The last time revenue collections were higher than prior year collections was December 2001, said Shawn Ashley, spokesman for the Office of State Finance.

Of the state's major revenue sources, only the gross production tax on natural gas exceeded prior year collections, due largely to a spike in natural gas prices.

The tax yielded $37.4 million in March, more than $25 million and 204 percent above collections in March 2002.

Income taxes produced $105.5 million in March, $22.7 million or 17.7 percent below collections from last year and $36.6 million or 25.8 percent below the estimate.

Individual returns produced $88.4 million, $8.7 million or 9 percent below prior year collections. Corporate returns produced $17.2 million, $14 million or about 50 percent below the prior year.

State sales taxes produced $88.2 million, almost $10 million or 10% below the prior year.

Motor vehicle tax receipts produced $12.3 million, $2.1 million or 14.8% below the prior year