Oklahoma lawmakers left virtually no money on the table for emergencies as they spent $12 million on various projects and programs before adjourning the 2008 legislative session.


Oklahoma lawmakers left virtually no money on the table for emergencies as they spent $12 million on various projects and programs before adjourning the 2008 legislative session.
Final day spending met special funding needs of some agencies, with $2.2 million going to the Department of Mental Health, $2 million to the Department of Human Services, $1.4 million to CareerTech, $1.1 million to the Department of Agriculture and $1 million to the Department of Education.
Other agencies receiving extra funds included the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Department of Health and the Department of Tourism and Recreation.
The funding was stuck into several bills enacted in a rush of activity last Friday before the Legislature adjourned a week earlier than the deadline set in the state Constitution. Lawmakers will reconvene next February.
The last-day spending did not count about $8 million in debt service committed as part of a $475 million bond program for highways, endowed chairs and other projects.
The Office of State Finance said it had not tabulated how much money was left to be spent after lawmakers went home, but it would be less than $1 million out of a $7.1 billion budget. One legislative estimate put the unspent cash closer to $100,000.
That means if a special session was called to meet emergency needs, the money likely would have to come out of the state’s constitutional rainy day fund.
Last year, lawmakers left more than $8 million unspent and had a $43 million surplus at the end of the fiscal year from revenue collections that exceeded the estimate.
In 2006, legislators left more than $18 million on the table and had more than $74 million in spillover money.
No spillover is expected at the end of the current fiscal year on June 30 after four months of collections failing to meet the official estimate.
Heading into next year, the state budget already has a hole of more than $100 million to fill. That’s because one-time tobacco funds and agency carry-over funds were used to balance the budget for state agencies starting July 1.
On Wednesday, a report by the Oklahoma Policy Institute warned that state government could face major shortfalls in the years ahead if there is a prolonged economic downturn nationally.
It said state coffers have benefited from high energy prices, but tax cuts have taken a toll on revenue available for appropriation.