Budget & Tax

The Bogus Budget: DEM & OETA

May 3, 2017

Trent England

Your boss says he’s cutting benefits—maybe even pay—because times are tight. But you notice your boss has the nicest of everything and seems to be doing better than ever before. What do you do?

Maybe you ask questions, even get the bookkeeper to tell you what’s going on. It turns out the company is keeping two sets of books, one to justify pleading poverty to employees and customers and the other, fatter books for executive perks.

In private business, someone might wind up in prison. But in government, this is just the way things work. Some politicians tell us budgets have been slashed, but many state agencies that claim to have suffered budget cuts in recent years are actually spending more than ever before.

Yesterday’s Bogus Budget blog showed how shaving just a few years of spending in higher education could solve almost the whole budget shortfall. Our first post offered Oklahoma’s space agency as an example of these two sets of numbers.

Today we present two state agencies called to our attention by Gov. Mary Fallin as examples of agencies that have had massive cuts. To be precise, she shows a chart in this video that says the “appropriated amount change between” 2009 and 2017 is a “-40% or more” cut.

As you can see, the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (a dubious exercise of government authority) and the Department of Emergency Management (important, no doubt) have both taken cuts to their appropriations (data is from the State Senate and goes back to 2013). You can also see that actual spending at OETA has held about constant and actual spending at DEM has increased.

Source: Oklahoma State Senate

Source: Oklahoma State Senate

Oklahoma’s cyclical economy seems to be coming around, but private-sector workers have suffered intensely over the last few years. Many families had to tighten their budgets and make hard choices. Citizens expect the same from government, and many politicians claim—perhaps even believe—that government has been cut to the bone.

The artificial focus on just the appropriated funds spent by state agencies is what allows politicians to act as if government has been cut. We will continue to highlight examples of agencies where the appropriations are down but spending is up as we expose Oklahoma’s bogus budget.