Here’s a summary of the contents and the themes of each of the Guide’s five sections. You can click on the section names to navigate to that section.
Expenditures explores how we use public money to meet our goals as a state. This section compares Oklahoma’s spending patterns to those of other states. It describes the major functions of state and local government, the services these governments provide, and indicators of how we are doing.
The most important themes from this section are:
- Government spends money to purchase goods and services for improving the community. Government spending creates and supports public structures to protect quality of life and allow society to get things done.
- State and local government spending in Oklahoma is twenty percent less per person than the national average.
- While our accomplishments in improving public structures have been significant, there are many areas where we perform well below national and regional standards. We have a long way to go to meet our common goals.
Revenues takes us through the sources of public money. A detailed tax section describes the nine major taxes, including how they are calculated, how they are divided up among various uses, the revenue they generate, and how our tax levels compare nationally. This section also describes the major federal, user charge, utility, insurance trust, and other revenue that makes public services possible.
The major themes of the revenue section are:
- Oklahoma governments rely on many revenue types to fund essential government services. While taxes are the most visible and largest revenue source, they represent less than half of all revenue.
- Oklahoma taxes are among the lowest in the nation. The gap between Oklahoma tax revenue and the national average has grown over the last decade.
- Over time, Oklahoma has increased its reliance on the sales tax and individual income tax, which are the two largest tax sources.
- User charges and federal funds provide significant revenues for public services, particularly for health and social services, education, and transportation.
Budget Process presents information on the legal structures and informal practices that govern Oklahoma state budgeting. It walks through the budget process in a step-by-step format.
The key themes of this section are:
- Oklahoma’s budget is the product of legal, political, and practical limitations that require significant effort every year in trying to meet the needs of all participants and to use public money wisely and effectively.
- Oklahoma’s budget must be completed within constitutional and legal limits that attempt to prevent spending beyond the available resources, restrict certain revenue streams only for specific agencies and purposes, set aside money for future emergencies and economic downturns, and maintain accountability to taxpayers.
- The annual budget process takes more than two years from the planning stages through audit and evaluation. The key steps are agency budget requests, revenue certification by the Board of Equalization, the Governor’s proposed executive budget, legislative deliberations and appropriation, implementation, and audit and evaluation.
- Numerous state and federal agencies audit revenues and spending, determine if financial activity met legal restraints and evaluate the effectiveness of government programs at the end of each fiscal year and on an ongoing basis.
Policy Challenges We Face examines significant fiscal policy issues that Oklahoma should address. These include the likelihood that we cannot maintain current services with our existing revenue system and an inequitable tax system inequitable and inadequate tax system.
Key themes of this section are:
- Oklahoma often makes financial decisions for the short term but rarely considers the long-term impacts on taxpayers and government services.
- Oklahoma faces serious fiscal challenges that will require us to think more strategically about how we will continue to provide public services and how we will pay for those services.
Next Steps provides links for more information from a variety of local, state, and national sources on budget and tax information. It also gives suggestions as to how citizens can get involved to make the system more responsive to their needs.
We hope the Guide will provide you with most of the basic facts you need on Oklahoma government finances. It also will challenge you to consider not only how we currently collect and use public money, but how we can do so in a more effective, efficient, and fair manner.