Eighteen months ago, the state’s rainy day fund was drained to backfill the ongoing budget needs. Today, thanks mostly to higher-than-expected collections in income, sales and motor vehicle taxes, the state expects to have a rainy day balance of nearly $600 million.
The money, deposited when revenues exceed estimates by a set trigger, could be close to a record high in the account, which topped out at $596.6 million in July 2008. That was just before the national recession swept into Oklahoma.
Midwestern states are often late in feeling the impact of national economic trends and even later in recovering from them.
Counting all sources of revenue, the state’s General Revenue fund took in about $430.3 million in May, a 3.8 percent increase over May 2011.
Net income taxes were up 21.3 percent and sales taxes rose 6.8 percent compared to the same month in 2011.
Cities and counties are seeing similar increases in their sales tax collections. Many put on extra police and fire with temporary taxes in hopes of adding their costs as growth continued.
If the fund continues to grow, we hope the state sees fit to use some of the rainy day money to fund measures that didn’t get taken care of in the legislative session that ended last month.
Those include repairing the crumbling Capitol building and providing additional funds to finish the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum.
It will be cheaper to do the two projects with available funds than to float bonds and borrow the money with long-term paybacks.