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Budget hole larger than predicted for upcoming legislative session

The Oklahoma State Capitol. (KOKH)

The Oklahoma legislature will have nearly $700 million less to work with than they did during the last session. However, the governor’s chief budget negotiator says the actual hole the state has to fill is closer to $869 million due to accounting tricks used to balance the current fiscal year’s budget.

Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger announced the budget numbers to members of the media in advance of Wednesday’s meeting of the state Board of Equalization. “We will not cut our way out of this,” Doerflinger said multiple times. He said the state has to have a serious discussion about recurring revenue.

In addition to the budget hole, Doerflinger said the general revenue fund did not grow enough to trigger the next income tax reduction. That reduction would have pushed the state’s income tax rate down from 5.0% to 4.85$ for tax years 2018. Doerflinger said legislators may look at the law and the trigger mechanism when they reconvene in February. He added that he did not believe this was the right time to be cutting income tax in Oklahoma, but stressed the state should strive to have lower taxes.

RELATED: Governor's office was blindsided at end of budget negotiations

Doerflinger did not say if the budget negotiators were prepared if legislators asked for an additional budget increase as they did for Fiscal Year 2017. FOX 25 exposed the last minute tactic that gave legislative budgets a multi-million-dollar increase while demanding cuts to other core government services. Doerflinger said the legislature had needs and those needs would be addressed in budget negotiations, but stopped short of saying if the governor would sign off on any additional funding for the House and Senate.

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