Graph of the Day: State funding shrinks sharply

In a recent editorial, the Tulsa World questioned the call that is frequently heard to ‘right-size’ state government. After three successive years of deep cuts to public services, the editorial asked ‘where does it end?’:

But how do we define right-sizing? Is government the right size if there aren’t enough correctional officers to handle prison unrest? Is it right-sized if children are crowded into classrooms? Is it the right size if sex offenders cannot be properly supervised? Is it the right size when DHS caseloads are so high that the vulnerable slip through the cracks?

The chart below provides numerical support for the idea that state government has shrunk dramatically in recent years. As a share of state personal income, state appropriations are at their lowest level in at least three decades. In FY 2011, the state appropriated budget of $6.77 billion represented just 4.9 percent of  state personal income ($137.8 billion). This is almost a full percentage point below the historical average of 5.8 percent over the past 25 years. This year, with appropriations having been cut by a further 2.4 percent and state personal income rising, the share will fall even further.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis (State Personal Income), OK Policy (State Appropriations)

As we showed in an earlier blog post, state tax collections are also at an historic low and are failing to keep pace with growing costs and growing needs. Rather than being bloated and in need of right-sizing downward, the question we must now face is whether years of underfunding have shrunk state government to the point where it is no longer capable of performing the core functions that Oklahomans expect: educating our children, training our workforce, maintaining our infrastructure, protecting our communities, and aiding our most vulnerable family members and neighbors


Former Executive Director David Blatt joined OK Policy in 2008 and served as its Executive Director from 2010 to 2019. He previously served as Director of Public Policy for Community Action Project of Tulsa County and as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Cornell University and a B.A. from the University of Alberta. David has been selected as Political Scientist of the Year by the Oklahoma Political Science Association, Local Social Justice Champion by the Dan Allen Center for Social Justice, and Public Citizen of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers.

3 thoughts on “Graph of the Day: State funding shrinks sharply

  1. Income tax is down because people like me cannot hire anyone because of the high taxes, regulations, and cost of living(inflation,and i dont mean what the government is telling us.) Cant charge higher prices because the people are already hurting financially,and the media and government have the people scared to death. Which means i have to take a cut(inflation). Since when does it mean the economy is bad because the state cant pay for the stuff they promised. Maybe they shouldnt make such promises to the people. I payed for my own school while i worked full time, and raised a kid. Prisons, maybe if we would quit jailing people for crimes that are not violent crime that effected noone but there self, we wouldnt be the 7th highest prison population. Which means we probly have one of highest cost per prisoner. Communities should pay for own schools and police. Why give it to the state. You never get back what you gave up. Aiding the most vulnerable is a joke. Welfare is given out to people who have jobs, it should be given to mentaly retarded or people who are paralyzed, or old people who coudnt save for retirement because of taxes and inflation(a tax on us because we spend more than produce. Only way out, tax and regulate till we are all poor and crooks.

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