Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

Policy Research Fellow

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Oklahoma is often characterized as a low-tax state, but as OCPA has already shown, Oklahoma has not been a historically low-tax state. Moreover, Oklahoma is not a low-spending state. In fact, when data1 on total state spending are analyzed, Oklahoma comes in at 33 among the 50 states.

Interestingly, seven of the seventeen states that spend less than Oklahoma were able to pay teachers more, even when adjusted for cost of living. Plus, fourteen of those seventeen states also achieved a higher overall health ranking from the United Health Foundation.

Not only have many states been able to do more with less, Oklahoma is losing its tax base to these lower-spending states. According to IRS data, four of the top five states that have benefited the most from Oklahomans relocating have lower government spending. Alternatively, Oklahoma has benefited from people relocating to Oklahoma from states with higher government spending. If Oklahoma wants to inoculate itself from future energy downturns, diversifying our economy and growing our tax base must be the focus.

The past few legislative sessions have been primarily focused on growing government. Since 2015, $1.1 billion in new revenue has been passed. Now is the time to reform government to ensure we are wisely spending taxpayers’ money.


RankState2016 Total SpendingPopulationPer Capita Expenditures
1Alaska$10,694,091,000741,522$14,421.81
2Massachusetts$67,781,000,0006,823,700$9,933.17
3Vermont$5,614,127,000623,354$9,006.32
4Delaware$7,928,772,000952,698$8,322.44
5North Dakota$6,149,353,280755,548$8,138.93
6Connecticut$28,622,502,0003,587,700$7,977.95
7New York$148,301,000,00019,836,300$7,476.24
8New Mexico$15,549,915,0002,085,400$7,456.56
9Hawaii$10,628,399,0001,428,700$7,439.21
10Wyoming$4,126,741,222584,910$7,055.34
11Rhode Island$7,283,134,0001,057,600$6,886.47
12Minnesota$36,428,898,0005,525,100$6,593.35
13California$255,285,348,00039,296,500$6,496.39
14New Jersey$55,934,600,0008,978,400$6,229.91
15West Virginia$11,265,580,0001,828,600$6,160.77
16Washington$44,147,000,0007,280,900$6,063.40
17Maryland$36,222,129,0006,024,800 $6,012.17
18Oregon$24,301,956,0004,086,000$5,947.62
19Kentucky$25,645,603,0004,436,100$5,781.11
20Maine$16,398,766,0002,988,200$5,487.84
21Mississippi$16,707,105,0002,985,400$5,596.27
22Montana$5,702,547,0001,038,700$5,487.84
23Arkansas$16,398,766,0002,988,200$5,487.84
24Louisiana$25,609,611,0004,686,200$5,464.90
25Pennsylvania$68,800,385,00012,787,100$5,380.45
26Michigan$53,375,775,0009,933,400$5,373.36
27Iowa$16,323,740,0003,130,900$5,213.75
28Illinois$66,380,618,00012,835,700$5,171.56
29Ohio$58,708,554,00011,622,600$5,051.24
30Kansas$14,563,892,0002,907,700$5,008.73
31Wisconsin$28,533,619,0005,772,900$4,942.68
32Indiana$31,916,769,0006,634,000$4,811.09
33Oklahoma$17,953,478,0003,921,200$4,578.57
34Nebraska$8,650,352,0001,907,600$4,534.68
35Tennessee$29,601,729,0006,649,400$4,451.79
36Virginia$36,950,000,0008,414,400$4,391.28
37South Dakota$3,723,319,000861,542$4,321.69
38New Hampshire$5,762,657,0001,335,000$4,316.60
39North Carolina$43,510,043,00010,156,700$4,283.88
40Alabama$20,618,781,0004,860,500$4,242.11
41Arizona$29,305,881,0006,908,600$4,241.94
42Colorado$23,113,000,0005,530,100$4,179.49
43South Carolina$20,696,372,0004,959,800$4,172.82
44Idaho$6,883,830,0001,680,000$4,097.52
45Missouri$24,397,035,0006,091,200$4,005.29
46Texas$109,674,000,00027,904,900$3,930.28
47Utah$11,923,040,0003,044,300$3,916.51
48Florida$76,801,376,00020,656,600$3,718.01
49Georgia$37,670,412,00010,313,600$3,652.50
50Nevada$10,314,813,0002,939,300$3,509.28
RankState2016 Total SpendingPopulationPer Capita Expenditures

*Note: Dollar figures above have not been adjusted for inflation.

References

[1] The data were collected from the 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) from each state. The 2017 CAFRs for New Mexico and Alabama were not available at publishing time.

Policy Research Fellow

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