9 October 2002
The number crunch
Two hundred thirteen million dollars.
That's how much the state of Oklahoma is going to come up short in the FY 2003 budget. Absent some sort of divine intervention, or, say, Eddie Gaylord putting the whole deficit on his MasterCard, spending must be cut the state Constitution prohibits going into the hole and each department is expected to pull its own weight.
The Department of Corrections has a budget-cutting plan which involves furloughing (a state term meaning "involuntary unpaid vacation") its staffers for a total of twenty-three days between now and the 30th of June. Upset, a couple of hundred Corrections employees put in an appearance at the steps of the Capitol, hoping to draw attention to themselves and their plight. Corrections is, by some estimates, about 20 percent understaffed already, so the furloughs will exacerbate matters, but there simply isn't any extra money at the moment, the Legislature is not in session and will not likely be called into special session between now and Election Day, and revenue projections continue to decline.
What does the state plan to do? There's little or no support for raising taxes, and enacting new ones is even less likely. Maybe Oklahoma can start buying tickets in the Kansas lottery.