Budget & Tax

Curtis Shelton | May 5, 2017

Misleading claims versus the truth about state spending

Curtis Shelton

Gov. Mary Fallin recently has made several presentations offering a doom-and-gloom picture of Oklahoma’s government agencies. Her presentation implies that if funding remains flat for the largest seven agencies then the other 60 agencies would be eliminated. This is not the case.

In her presentation, Gov. Mary Fallin only mentions appropriated funding for state agencies. This is misleading, however, because appropriations have only made up less than a third of state funding the past two years. In fact, according to data provided by the state Senate—one of the bodies that actually appropriate the funds—during the current fiscal year appropriations make up just 27% of state funding. As the data in the chart shows, total spending by state agencies, as reported by those agencies to the Senate, actually increased from the last fiscal year, going from $23.9 billion in 2016 to $25.4 billion in 2017.

OCPA’s Trent England has begun a Bogus Budget blog series showing how this works in specific agencies and just how misleading this can be. Many agencies Gov. Mary Fallin points to actually receive most of their funding through other means, whether that is direct tax dollars (so-called “off-the-top” funding), agency fees, or federal tax dollars. There are already some agencies that operate with no state appropriated funding. Oklahoma taxpayers deserve a government that is transparent about how it spends taxpayers’ money and focuses on the budget as a whole, not just a small portion.

Sources: Oklahoma State Senate

While the Senate report seems to be the best at capturing total agency spending, other sets of state data also show agencies spending more than appropriations. These include the Governor’s own budget book, which shows both the appropriation and the “total budget” for most state agencies. Yet another set of state financial data is in Oklahoma’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports.

Curtis Shelton Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton

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.

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