Right before the Christmas break, members of the State Board of Equalization (BOE), which is chaired by Gov. Mary Fallin, gave a gift to Oklahoma citizens and taxpayers. The gift by the members came in the form of a wise move while conducting their duties to establish the preliminary revenue certification estimate. Citizens of Oklahoma and taxpayers will no doubt be grateful for the efforts of the BOE to ensure that income tax collections are scrutinized and distributed judiciously.
Each year, the BOE reviews the request for funds for the state OHLAP program from the State Regents for Higher Education. In years past, the BOE and lawmakers have just accepted and approved the request from the Regents with little or no scrutiny. In this meeting, members of the BOE analyzed the request of $63 million for the upcoming year ($58 million for the prior year) from the Regents, and also analyzed unspent/undedicated funds in the OHLAP fund. The BOE determined, based on presentations from the Regents and the Office of State Finance, that the OHLAP fund had accumulated an undedicated reserve of about 25 percent, or more than $14 million. Based on this information, the board (as allowed by state statute) approved an amount of dedicated income tax for OHLAP of $6 million less than requested by the Regents, thus allowing the Regents to use some of the over-reserved funds for the upcoming year.
This action taken by the BOE is a great way to start the budget process of the 2012 session. It is this kind of fiscal responsibility that will go a long way toward “right-sizing” Oklahoma government and making sure that no more funds than are absolutely necessary are taken from taxpayers.