Henry, Meacham say Oklahoma's economy strong - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Henry, Meacham say Oklahoma's economy strong

Oklahoma City_The national economy may be in the gutter, but Oklahoma's finances are okay says Governor Brad Henry and State Treasurer Scott Meacham.  On Thursday, they laid out compelling evidence to prove their case because they do not want Oklahomans to be alarmed by the national trends of collapsing banks and faltering housing.  They also want to assure retirees that their government pensions are safe. 

While Oklahoma's economy has some areas of concern such as state bond programs, the governor says they aren't reasons to panic.  Speaking from his blue room at the capitol, Henry wanted to make it very clear - "Our economy in this great state remains strong." 

In an effort to keep the economy here strong, he announced that a comprehensive study will be carried out by Treasurer Meacham, and said that the state's coffers are not suffering.  In fact, Henry says tax collections are up.  "We're running $74 million above our estimates and $93 million ahead of last year.  Again, while we're seeing declines in part of the country our economy is still growing in Oklahoma."

Oklahoma's state bond credit rating was recently raised for the first time in 47 years, and the rainy day fund is full at $6 million.  "When you hear about states like California that are talking about a $7 billion dollar loan from the U.S Government just to get by, Oklahoma actually has surplus funds on hand," said Meacham. 

Although retirement funds may be hurting for Oklahomans who invested in the private sector, Meacham and Henry say that state pensions are guaranteed.  "It doesn't affect retired teachers, retired state employees, firefighters, policemen - those are not affected because that obligation to pay them that fixed payment remains in effect."

The governor says that state agencies aren't being asked to scale back their budgets; but if the surplus dips, they might.  Henry stresses that Oklahoma has seen darker days - such as 2003's $700 million deficit - and just like then, if a deficit were to occur again, Oklahoma would get through it just as before.

Oklahoma's banking system also is financially strong.  They are able to continue to approve loans, which many argue is key to stimulating economic growth.  Meacham said that his office also is managing a $5.6 billion portfolio comprised of taxpayer dollars that he says has not lost money since it is not invested in the stock market.

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