The Senate has passed Senate Joint Resolution 44, authored by Sen. David Holt, by a vote of 46-1. The legislation, approved Monday, would give the people of Oklahoma the opportunity to measure the current 15 percent cap on the state’s Rainy Day Fund against the total state budget of approximately $24 billion. Currently, the Rainy Day Fund’s 15 percent cap is measured against the artificially smaller number of “general revenue fund certification” that was just $5.6 billion for the most recent budget, less than a quarter of the dollar amount actually spent by the state. The recent drop in energy prices has created a budget shortfall of $1.3 billion that far exceeds the maximum amount of approximately $850 million that the Rainy Day Fund could have held under the current cap.
“We’ve lived in an energy-based economy long enough to know these price drops are going to happen and we need to have a savings account that is adequate to the task,” said Holt, R-Oklahoma City. “Out of this current budget crisis, I can think of no greater gift we can give future generations than to put a savings plan in place that will give us the security we need to avoid future shortfalls like this. The lessons we’re learning in this crisis need to be applied today, while they are fresh. Putting an appropriate cap in place is the first step. The current cap is measured against a dollar amount that has no particular relevance, it provides a false sense of security, and it has utterly failed us.”
SJR 44 now proceeds to the House for consideration. Because the cap on the Rainy Day Fund is part of the Constitution, amending it requires a vote of the people. If SJR 44 passes the House, it would be placed on the November, 2016 ballot for consideration by the voters.