OKLAHOMA CITY — The state’s economy continues to contract, which likely means more budget woes at the Capitol, the state’s treasurer warned Wednesday.

“There’s nothing to show marked improvement or a recovery in the energy sector,” said Treasurer Ken Miller, of Edmond, during a briefing at the Capitol.

But he also noted “moderation” in numbers that may suggest the worst is over.

The state’s oil and gas economy long kept people at work, and Oklahoma for more than a decade boasted unemployment levels below the national average.

But, for the first time in 13 years, the number of unemployed Oklahomans has reached the national rate, which is now 4.7 percent, Miller reported.

“Clearly the driving force behind this downturn has been our anchor industry, which is energy, and so I don’t think anyone is necessarily to blame for that,” he said. “It’s a commodity. It’s cyclical.”

A tightening energy economy, which has resulted in thousands of layoffs, has also squeezed state collections.

Tax receipts in all major categories — income, sales, oil and gas production and motor vehicle — are down $73.6 million compared with this time last year, Miller said.

Oklahomans, meanwhile, are buying more fuel, alcohol and tobacco, and they’re gambling more on horse races.

Tax collections in those areas are up $7.4 million from last year.

Still, Miller points to a glimmer of hope in a state heavily dependent on energy.

Taxes collected by the state from oil and gas producers, which generally have been down about 50 percent from one month to the next, are now down 29 percent.

Miller called that “a bit of a reprieve” that may indicate that prices have moderated.

“Hopefully we’ve hit rock-bottom, and the numbers won’t go back there,” he said.

If that’s the case, he said, lawmakers likely won’t face another $1.3 billion shortfall, like they did while crafting this year’s budget.

There may still be a shortfall, he warned.

“It’s way too early to try to predict those numbers,” he said, “but I hope the worst is behind us, and next year’s budget has recovered somewhat.”

STATE TAXES COLLECTED IN JUNE 2015 TO JUNE 2016

Receipts: $925.7 million (Down $73.6 million)

Income tax, personal and corporate: $353.4 million (Down $53.5 million)

Sales tax: $351.1 million (Down $13.5 million)

Production taxes: $25.5 million (Down $10.5  million)

Motor vehicle taxes: $65.8 million (Down $3.6 million)

Other taxes: $129.9 million (Up $7.4 million)

Source: State Treasurer

JANELLE STECKLEIN covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach her at jstecklein@cnhi.com

Recommended for you