December 18, 2014

Board of Education reacts to oversight in school

State education officials have rediscovered a law more than 20 years old which affects the way millions of dollars in current and future fiscal year funds will be distributed to the state’s school districts.

“The department faces a challenge this year in regard to midyear adjustments,” said Superintendent Janet Barresi Thursday during a regular meeting of the State Board of Education.

The formula for midterm adjustments, she said, accounts for ad valorem tax revenues. In that factoring, the state law enacted in 1990 to take effect in 1992 mandates that agricultural and commercial personal property taxes should be capped at 11 percent. The statute also notes that the Oklahoma Tax Commission will provide that data to the Department of Education.

Since the law took effect, Barresi said the State Department of Education has failed to consider the cap and the Oklahoma Tax Commission has not provided the necessary data.


December 18, 2014

Legislators watch Equalization Board trigger tax

A large group of legislators watched Thursday as the Board of Equalization approved a finding that will result in a 0.25 percentage point reduction of the top individual income tax rate in 2016. The board also voted to approve a fiscal year 2016 revenue estimate that when combined with other revenue makes available nearly $300 million less for Gov. Mary Fallin to develop her executive budget than was appropriated for the current fiscal year.

“I did ask the legislators to come today,” Fallin said. “I think it’s very important that the legislators have all the information we have because they are here for a very short period of time, basically February through May, making some important decisions about how we allocate our resources in our state.”

The legislators were scheduled to receive an additional briefing about the estimating and budget process following the board’s meeting, Fallin said.


December 18, 2014

Workers Comp Commission to review private self-ins

The Workers Compensation Commission plans to conduct a review of the private self-insured entities it oversees. Commission Chair Troy Wilson was authorized Thursday to sign a contract with a firm to perform the evaluations.

Executive Director Rick Farmer said there are 143 private self-insured companies under the commission’s jurisdiction, as well as 40 government entities. Combined, they employ 254 people or approximately 16 percent of the state’s workforce. The private firms have $198 million of letters of credit and bonds on file with the commission as collateral for their claims.

“The information we have is limited considering the amount of responsibility we have,” said Farmer. “I believe it would be appropriate for us to take a deeper look.”

Farmer recommended and the commission approved hiring an outside contractor to examine the risk level of each of the private firms and to make recommendations to the commission for improving the system. Farmer said the contractor would provide a report on each company, as well as an overview of the entire system.

“No review like this has been done before,” he added.


December 17, 2014

Bingman names Republican committee members

Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman announced his committee assignments for the 55th Legislature on Wednesday.
“Oklahomans have given Republicans a historic majority in the state Senate,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “With 40 Senators, there is a considerable diversity of leadership and talent in the Republican caucus. I am proud to work with such a fine group of public servants as we advance an agenda to further our economic momentum.”

All 48 members of the Senate will serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee, according to the appointments announced Wednesday by Bingman. Sen. Clark Jolley, R-Edmond, will continue to serve as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, will serve as vice chair for the first time.


December 17, 2014

Revenue forecast to meet tax cut trigger, decline

General Revenue Fund collections for fiscal year 2016 are forecast to increase, tripping the trigger for an individual income tax rate cut in calendar year 2016, Secretary of Finance, Administration and Information Technology Preston Doerflinger announced Wednesday. Total revenue available for appropriations for the next fiscal year, however, is forecast to decline by nearly $300 million, he said.

Under Senate Bill 1246, which lawmakers approved during the 2014 legislative session and Gov. Mary Fallin signed, the state’s top personal income tax rate will drop from 5.25 percent to 5.0 percent beginning Jan. 1, 2016 if the FY2016 General Revenue Fund estimate made by the Board of Equalization at its meeting Thursday is equal to or greater than the FY2014 estimate approved in February 2013.

According to the estimate to be presented to the board Thursday, the FY2016 estimate will be $60.7 million more than the FY2014 estimate.

The total amount of money available for the FY2016 budget will be $6.9 million, Doerflinger said, which is $298.1 million or 4.1 percents less than the state’s budget for the current fiscal year. That amount includes money in addition to the General Revenue Fund.


December 17, 2014

Banking Board to reduce assessment fees

The Oklahoma State Banking Board confirmed Wednesday it will reduce banks’ assessment rates for Oklahoma chartered institutions for the fourth year in a row. The lower rates will be calculated based on the institution’s assets as of Dec. 31, said Chairman Mick Thompson.

Even with the cut in assessment fees, the agency still had a 4.8 percent growth in assets this year, going from $9.4 to $10 million. Thompson said this increase is due to the conversions of getting Arkansas and Texas banks in to Oklahoma.

In recent years, a 22 percent decrease in assessments was applied to smaller banks but nothing was done for the bigger banks. In fairness to everyone, said Thompson, the two proposals that were presented to the board would affect both big and small banks.

The first proposal was a 30 percent discount for banks with assets over $100 million and a 50 percent decrease for banks with assets under $100 million. The second proposal offered was the same percentage but the $100 million was moved to $200 million.