Friday, August 12, 2011

Rainy Day Deposit Estimate Increased by $30 million

OKLAHOMA CITY — General Revenue Fund collections showed moderate growth in July, Office of State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger said Monday. He also announced that the deposit into the state's Rainy Day Fund will be $30 million more than originally expected.
"A final reconciliation of all sources contributing to the General Revenue Fund raised the deposit into the Rainy Day Fund to $249.2 million, compared with last month's estimate of approximately $219 million," Doerflinger said.
"This is really no surprise," Doerflinger said of the more moderate total growth figures. "We fully expected that the growth rate would moderate eventually, simply because collection of some revenue, such as income taxes, can vary greatly from month to month. We're still showing steady growth and I am optimistic that we can maintain that in future months."
Doerflinger, secretary of finance, added: "I'm concerned, of course, by Wall Street's reaction to the debt ceiling debacle in Washington and the downgrading of our country's bond rating. But this should not overshadow the progress we've made economically here in Oklahoma."
Gov. Mary Fallin also had a positive reaction to the latest GRF figures. "Our increasing revenues further show the Oklahoma economy is on the right track," the governor said. "As we begin a new fiscal year, it's also good news to see another significant deposit into our Rainy Day Fund.
Oklahoma can continue to build upon this positive momentum by pursuing the kind of pro-business policies that will attract new jobs and investment, which will lead to continued revenue growth," Gov. Fallin added.
Only time will determine the direction of the national economy, which some economists argue might be headed for another downturn that could dampen Oklahoma's robust recovery from the last recession. But Doerflinger remains hopeful about the state's economic future.
"Consumer confidence has been high in Oklahoma and our revenue collections have been stronger than most states for some time now," he said. "We saw pent-up demand leading to a buying spree by Oklahomans in 2011. While you could expect buying to level off this year, I see no reason for our citizens to succumb to the doom-and-gloom predictions of some economists."
Doerflinger pointed out that the state's unemployment rate held steady at 5.3 percent for 2 months in a row, compared with a national rate topping 9 percent.
"And unlike the systemic weakening of the manufacturing sector across the nation, Oklahoma over a 12-month period added 11,200 manufacturing jobs by June of this year," he said.
"Officials at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission and in the energy industry attribute much of the gain in manufacturing jobs to a resurgence of activity in the oil patch due to strong oil prices and improved drilling techniques," Doerflinger said.
Many of the manufacturing jobs created in Oklahoma have been in the area of durable goods to meet the demands of the energy sector, officials say.
"While oil and natural gas prices have also taken a hit on Wall Street, some national experts continue to forecast that worldwide demand will cause an uptick in energy prices in 2012," Doerflinger said.
"That would bode well for Oklahoma, as far as state revenue collections go," he added. "But the commodity market has been known for volatility historically, and we'll be watching this area very closely in the months ahead."
The higher deposit into the Rainy Day account is important in case funding emergencies develop in the future. The constitutional reserve fund was drained to $2.03 after it had to be tapped during the last recession to ease huge budget shortfalls. It had reached a record $596.6 million at one point.
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