Lawmakers have growth funds to spend

Wednesday, December 29th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Counting a $66 million tobacco settlement windfall, the 2000 Oklahoma Legislature will have an extra $248 million to spend from the state's General Revenue Fund next year. Estimates of state revenue for the next fiscal year were released Wednesday by the Office of State Finance. They are scheduled to be certified next week by the Equalization Board.

Finance Director Tom Daxon said much of the "growth" revenue will go to pay for bond programs and other commitments. But he said state government's financial picture is better than many would have thought, considering the economic hits taken in the past year by the oil and agriculture industries. "Let's just say we dodged the bullet," he said. "The good news is the underlying economy is continuing to do well, despite the real crisis in the oil patch and continuing crisis in agriculture," Daxon said.

The estimates reflect that a big reason for a hefty increase in the Legislature's appropriations authority is tied to the rebound in oil and natural gas prices. Figures show the appropriations authority next year will be $314 million more than last session. But that counts $83 million derived from higher oil prices that are earmarked for special purposes and would not normally flow to the General Fund.

Sagging oil prices prompted a special session last year, leading to a cut in the severance tax on the price of oil at the wellhead. Special accounts -- for school technology, higher education capital improvements and a college tuition scholarships. It is now estimated that each of those funds will receive $27.8 million.

Final estimates for the current fiscal year show almost a 20 per cent increase in natural gas revenue over that estimated earlier and a 10 percent increase in corporate tax revenue. The final estimate on individual income tax revenue is down 3.8percent and the estimate on sales taxes is down .03 per cent.