Oklahoma Shows How Not to Budget


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A fascinating analysis published by the Tulsa World reveals how a growing share of Oklahoma’s budget has been put on auto-pilot, and how other areas of the budget have suffered as a result.  Despite actually seeing an increase in tax revenues this past year, Oklahoma’s elected officials now have $170 million less to appropriate, and state agencies are bracing for potential cutbacks as a result.

The biggest offender here is one we’ve explained before: the growing trend of funneling general tax revenues toward transportation in order to delay having to enact a long-overdue gas tax increase.

A spokesman for Governor Fallin recently paid lip service to the problem, explaining that “the governor … believes … the more money we skim off the top of general revenue, the less flexibility the state has to respond to situational needs and concerns. We certainly don't want taxpayers to lose influence into how their money is used by their government.”  But when it comes time to talk specifics, Fallin stands firmly behind her decision to direct a growing share of the state’s limited revenues toward roads and bridges.

The Tulsa World details how the portion of formerly “general fund” spending now swallowed up by transportation has grown almost fivefold since 2007, and how more increases are planned in the years ahead.  It’s hard to see how that trend will ever be reversed unless Oklahoma lawmakers finally address the fact that their traditional source of transportation revenue—the gasoline tax—hasn’t been raised in nearly 27 years.

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