Budget & Tax
Contra Oklahomans’ preference, state government continues to grow
October 18, 2017
As chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee, Rep. Leslie Osborn was one of the legislature’s budget negotiators earlier this year. She used that position to make the case for a litany of tax increases, claiming that Oklahomans are “tired of us doing things the way we’ve always done them.” This raises the question: what has the state been doing?
Despite changes in tax laws and fluctuations in revenue, what has remained constant year after year is the increase in state government spending. According to the data from Oklahoma’s most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), state government has increased spending in 22 of the last 23 years. Despite recessions in 2008 and 2015, when many Oklahoma families had to make tough choices, Oklahoma government continued to spend.
Oklahoma government has been growing, not shrinking. People might question the priorities in the budget or in how specific agencies spend money, but the total burden on Oklahomans is higher than ever.
In its opinion striking down SB 845, the recent tobacco tax, the Oklahoma Supreme Court noted that state constitutional provisions “mandate fiscally responsible government” and “indicate—by strictly limiting the Legislature's ability to enact laws that generate additional revenue—the people's preference that when revenues shrink, so too does their government.”
This is the people’s will as expressed in the Oklahoma Constitution. Maybe the state should try doing things this way?
Curtis Shelton is a policy research fellow at OCPA. He holds a B.A. in finance from Oklahoma State University and previously served as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.