Archive for 2012

Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building equity in Oklahoma

by | November 19th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Click here for a copy of a presentation of this research to the OKDHS Practice and Policy Lecture Series on 4/25/2013

Oklahoma’s prosperity depends on the financial success and economic achievement of the people who call it home.  For a state that has always been rich in natural resources and entrepreneurial spirit, the future continues to look bright.  Yet we’ve also inherited a legacy of discrimination that historically impeded economic opportunity for people of color and created a wealth deficit that persists today.  A report released today by Oklahoma Policy Institute,  Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma, outlines an equity agenda for the future, one that acknowledges the racial wealth gap and income inequality as products of our collective history, culture, and public policies.  

When wealth is measured in terms of financial assets, i.e. a home or savings account, White households in the U.S. have nearly twenty times more wealth than Black households and eighteen times more wealth than Hispanic households.  These are the largest gaps in racial wealth observed since the government began publishing data a quarter century ago.  Two out of every five, or 39.1 percent, of households of color in Oklahoma are asset poor, nearly double the rate for White households. The asset poverty rate measures the percentage of households without sufficient assets to subsist at the poverty level for at least three months if their income was disrupted.  

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The survey says… Oklahoma businesses need a well-funded education system

by | July 31st, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Education | Comments (0)

A few months ago, Governor Fallin released the results of a survey of businesses from across the state that asked what they viewed as the strengths and weaknesses of doing business in Oklahoma.  The results showed clearly that Oklahoma businesses value a state education system that they can rely on to produce skilled workers. Oklahoma’s educational institutions at the common, career tech, and higher ed levels all have major roles to play in our state’s economic success.

This web-based survey collected responses from 5,376 Oklahoma-based businesses, representing approximately 20 percent of the state’s total workforce. Business leaders from all 77 counties participated. Chambers of Commerce, other business organizations, and education entities from across the state partnered with the Governor to increase the participation rate.

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It matters who guards the henhouse

by | June 26th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (3)

No one would argue that Oklahoma’s business community does not have a major influence on public policy. They benefit from a significant lobbying infrastructure through Chambers of Commerce, extensive personal connections between business leaders and elected officials, and a state political culture that holds business in high esteem.

The business community is a positive influence in many ways. They create jobs, wealth, and opportunities that benefit millions of Oklahomans. However, precisely because this sector has so many natural advantages, we should be wary of going too far in giving one segment of the community control over decisions that affect all of us.

Recent debates in two Oklahoma municipalities offer prime examples.

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Summer Re-Run: What's the best way to boost the economy? Hint — it’s not tax cuts

by | June 14th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (0)

Note: This article originally appeared on the OK Policy Blog last December. Occasionally we are re-running blog posts on topical subjects that you may have missed the first time around.

Several state leaders have taken to promoting more income tax cuts as the best way to improve Oklahoma’s economy. But is that true? We recently heard Timothy Bartik, senior economist at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, discuss the latest research on which state-level policies are most effective at boosting the economy. [You can see the full transcript of his remarks here.]

Bartik explained that across-the-board business tax cuts are usually not the most cost-effective tool for economic development. Because state government resources are small relative to the size of a state’s economy, we need policies with a high “bang-for- the-buck” to see meaningful increases in per capita earnings. Across-the-board cuts are not targeted enough to account for the opportunity cost of paying for them though reductions in public services or increases in other taxes.

Instead, Bartik recommended five policies with proven effectiveness and high bang-for-the-buck:

continue reading Summer Re-Run: What's the best way to boost the economy? Hint — it’s not tax cuts

Watch This: Optimism and the American dream

by | June 4th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Watch This | Comments (0)

The program Moyers & Company recently hosted PolicyLink Founder and CEO Angela Glover Blackwell to discuss the status of the American dream and the prospect of an equitable America.  We’ve previously blogged about PolicyLink’s equity-driven economic development agenda.  In this 45-minute segment, Blackwell makes the case for investing in the people and places that too often get left behind, while reflecting on her own personal experiences.  She concludes, “And so this country, as a democracy, really cannot expect to continue to be proud on the world stage, competitive in the global economy, or having a democracy it can put forward as working in a multi-racial society if we don’t invest in the people who are the future.”

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New study: Harder to get ahead in Oklahoma than most other states

by | May 29th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Economy, Financial Security | Comments (0)

The ‘American Dream’ is pervasive in our collective discourse and consciousness.  Rooted in the founding documents and political mythology of the United States, it evokes an ethos of equal opportunity, regardless of one’s social class or original circumstance.  It’s an optimistic ideal that people across the country and from all walks of life continue to value today; for millions of Americans however, that dream is more myth than reality.  A new study from the Pew Research Center set out to evaluate a core component of the American Dream state by state – are workers climbing the economic ladder over their lifetime?  Oklahoma ranked near the bottom among states in terms of the economic mobility of its residents.

The Pew study explored the prospects for economic advancement during Oklahomans’ prime working years, between ages 35 and 49.  Economic advancement was measured quite simply by a person’s earnings.  Basically, did an individual’s earnings increase over time, and if so, by how much?  In terms of simple ‘absolute mobility,’ Oklahoma residents had less economic mobility on average than residents of most other states – with the exception of Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, and West Virginia.

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Guest Post (Ken Fergesen): Taxes are essential for Oklahoma's quality of life

by | April 9th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (3)

Ken Fergesen, a resident of Altus, is Chairman of NBC Oklahoma, and is active in banking, farming, civic, social and cultural organizations.. He is a past President of the State Chamber of Commerce.

I am really concerned about our State.  The drum beat at 23rd and Lincoln to eliminate Oklahoma’s income tax has me worried on many levels.  I’m afraid that I haven’t paid as close attention to the arguments until a representative from Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs spoke at the Altus Rotary meeting the other day.  That was when I realized that the proponents of eliminating the income tax were really single-purposed: ‘it’s all about business.’

I am also very pro-business and want our Oklahoma to have a healthy business climate.  I saw former Oklahoma Congressman Dave McCurdy recently and it reminded me of going with him to California and recruiting businesses to expand or move to Oklahoma, and preferably to his district.  When we called on CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, their first questions were about quality of life, not about tax rates.  They were concerned about educational and cultural opportunities for their employees.  Of course it is important to have a competitive business environment, and we do.  Oklahoma has a very favorable tax burden, tax incentives and cost of doing business, and a low cost of living for its citizens.

When I chaired the Oklahoma State Chamber, I traveled all across Oklahoma and visited many of its towns in every county.  I couldn’t help but notice communities that have flourishing arts and cultural activities were on the move, business was being done and cash registers were ringing.  At the time those observations were purely anecdotal, but now there are economic impact studies that prove my observations.

continue reading Guest Post (Ken Fergesen): Taxes are essential for Oklahoma's quality of life

Gov. Martin O'Malley: The business case for health reform

by | January 26th, 2012 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)

These comments were excerpted from a speech by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to a plenary session of an annual healthcare conference hosted by FamiliesUSA.

Our country is now poised through the Affordable Care Act to help millions of American families and small businesses and their employees access high quality, affordable health care coverage.  This isn’t going to happen by itself.  This is not simple.  If it were simple, someone would have accomplished it years ago.  This is complicated, but it is not beyond our grasp [..]

We are ready in Maryland to turn the corner on the healthcare costs that have been sapping our productivity as a people and as a nation.  Sapping the productivity of our businesses.  Taking from them the ability to reinvest in their own plants and their own opportunities and their own markets. Costs that force moms and dads to choose between health care and paying for groceries, or tuition, or school supplies, heat, rent, mortgage payments.  These are the big decisions that happen in the most important place – the kitchen table of every family home.

In Maryland we believe we are gaining a competitive advantage by being an early implementer [of health care reform].  Last year we had the best year of new job creation that we’ve had since the recession hit [..] Why is it that at the same time we’ve cut 7.5 billion from our state budget, we’re increasing the ranks of those who are covered by healthcare so very, very dramatically?  It’s because there is an historic truth – not a Democratic truth or a Republican truth – but an American truth and an economic truth.  In order to create jobs, a modern economy requires modern investments.

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What's the best way to boost the economy? Hint — it's not tax cuts

by | December 12th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Economy | Comments (1)

Several state leaders have taken to promoting more income tax cuts as the best way to improve Oklahoma’s economy. But is that true? We recently heard Timothy Bartik, senior economist at the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, discuss the latest research on which state-level policies are most effective at boosting the economy. [You can see the full transcript of his remarks here.]

Bartik explained that across-the-board business tax cuts are usually not the most cost-effective tool for economic development. Because state government resources are small relative to the size of a state’s economy, we need policies with a high “bang-for- the-buck” to see meaningful increases in per capita earnings. Across-the-board cuts are not targeted enough to account for the opportunity cost of paying for them though reductions in public services or increases in other taxes.

Instead, Bartik recommended five policies with proven effectiveness and high bang-for-the-buck:

continue reading What's the best way to boost the economy? Hint — it's not tax cuts

It's not the personal income tax

by | October 27th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (2)

ConocoPhillips headquarters in the Energy Corridor area of Houston

Why do some companies choose to locate their businesses  in Texas rather than Oklahoma? During the first two meetings of the Task Force on Comprehensive Tax Reform, co-chair Representative David Dank has stated repeatedly that the absence of the personal income tax accounts for the cases where Texas wins out in relocation and investment decisions.

Finding hard evidence to support his case, however, has proven elusive. At a recent Task Force meeting, Wes Stucky, CEO of the Ardmore Development Authority and a widely respected leader in the economic development field, spoke of his long-standing efforts to bring investment and jobs to Ardmore. Stucky told the Task Force:

For 24 years, I’ve been conducting interviews with executives of companies that we tried to recruit to Ardmore that ended up locating elsewhere. Not once in all those years did a company that rejected Ardmore base its decisions on taxes.

continue reading It's not the personal income tax