Governments spend money to purchase goods and services for improving the community. Government spending creates and supports public structures, the machinery that creates and protects quality of life and allows society to get things done. This section describes Oklahoma’s public structures and what and how we spend on them. Several important points are listed below.
- Oklahoma governments spent $7,515 per person in 2008, well below the national average of $9,311. In 2007, we ranked 43rd among the states in combined state and local spending per person, according to CQ Press.
- Of the total 2008 government spending of nearly $27 billion, the State of Oklahoma spends 55 percent. The rest is spent by local governments.
- In addition to state appropriations, most state agencies spend federal funds and revolving funds that collect user charges and other revenues. Some agencies operate without any appropriated funds.
- The largest share of state spending from all sources goes to health and social services (37 percent) and education (24 percent).
- Appropriations by the Legislature ($6.7 billion in FY ’11) represent less than half of the state’s total spending but are essential to funding state services. Just over half of all appropriations goes to education and about one-fourth funds health and social services.
- Nearly 90 percent of total state appropriations go to the ten largest agencies.
- 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.
- About 1,900 government entities provide public services in Oklahoma, most of them local governments. While nearly half of all local spending is on education, local governments also provide essential transportation, public safety and health services and operate utilities like water and electricity that make community development possible.
Governments spend money to purchase goods and services for improving the community. We have depended on government spending from our earliest history to enforce laws; protect us from foreign forces, crime, fire, and disease; build transportation networks; and allow all members of society to be safe, secure, healthy, and prosperous. Most of the great triumphs of the United States–immigration, westward expansion, new technologies, and advances in education–required financial support from governments. Oklahomans benefit from government spending each day and support the services it provides.
Government spending creates and supports public structures, the machinery that creates and protects quality of life and allows society to get things done. Public structures–laws, infrastructure like highways, public utilities and flood control, education, and service agencies–separate developed from undeveloped nations. They help launch well-structured nations and communities to new levels of economic development and quality of life. Public structures do not just happen. We have to build and nurture them through democratic governance, demands for accountability, and financial support from taxes and other sources.
Oklahoma’s public structures have created a vibrant and successful state. Without them there would not have been land runs, free public education, low-cost public colleges, highways and turnpikes, ports and airports, or support for those who cannot support themselves. Our success with public structures is far from complete though. If we want to make our public structures and our state stronger we must:
- Create a clear vision of the structures we want and how we want them to perform;
- Hold elected officials and government agencies accountable for achieving goals in the most cost-effective way; and
- Provide the level of funding that is needed for efficient and effective programs to achieve public goals.
This section acts as a report card on our public structures. It evaluates our public structures by describing what we spend, how we spend, where we are succeeding, and where we are falling short.