Budget & Tax

The bogus budget: Career Tech

May 15, 2017

Trent England

Oklahoma spends over half a billion dollars every year through the State Department of Career and Technology Education, or Career Tech. As with many state agencies, appropriations by the legislature make up just a small share of this expenditure. As shown on the chart below, for every one dollar appropriated by the legislature, Career Tech spends about four more dollars from other sources (data from a recent Senate report).

Source: Oklahoma State Senate

One challenge for state budget writers is dealing with agencies like Career Tech and many state universities where funds collected and spent outside the appropriations process can drive up fixed operating costs. This happens when a university president chooses to raise money for a fancy administrative office tower or when a Career Tech district spends local property taxes on an expensive building. The capital costs are “free” in two ways—they impose no direct costs on the legislature’s appropriations budget and they are free from the legislature’s control or from being considered against other spending priorities. Of course, the costs are still shouldered by taxpayers, and the cost of maintaining those buildings once completed becomes an operating cost demanded from taxpayers every year.

Also, like any agency, there are plenty of questions legislatures might ask about spending priorities, like why is Career Tech celebrating June as “Transgender Month,” or could we better align responsibility for taxing and spending in the agency?

Follow the state budget process on OCPA’s blog and Facebook page. Read previous Bogus Budget blog posts: