Oklahoma Policy Institute has grown a lot in the past few years. From humble beginnings in 2008, we now have a staff of 19, including talented individuals who focus on a wide range of policy issues, intensive data analysis, outreach, communications, events and operations, and more. To give you a better idea of who we are and what we all do, we are running an OK Policy Blog series highlighting our staffers.
For this edition, here’s Budget & Tax Senior Policy Analyst Paul Shinn:
What do you do at OK Policy?
I monitor and evaluate Oklahoma state and local government budget and tax policies. Most importantly, I participate in a team effort at OK Policy that helps makes financial aspects of government as clear as possible. This helps our supporters better understand how tax and budget affects them and the issues that are important to them. We do this through the annual Budget Highlights document, other regular reports through the year, and blog posts that are timely to actions at the Capitol. I also served as primary author of the Online Budget Guide and am presently updating it for the 10th Anniversary edition.
In all of this work, we emphasize the importance of making investments in Oklahoma’s future through education, health and mental health, criminal justice, and all the other public programs that support our communities. We also work to make state and local taxes fairer, particularly to low-income Oklahomans.
What’s your favorite thing about doing this work?
What we do makes a difference in daily lives. Working for more expenditures in Education, for example, helps attract and retain high-quality teachers, keep facilities and technology current, and make a difference in our children and their future. It’s also a key element in the upward mobility that is so basic to our national identity, but so at risk when so many devalue public education.
It’s the same way on the tax side. Over the last decade, whether consciously or not, Oklahoma has shifted more of the responsibility to fund government toward those who need it most but can afford it least. At OK Policy we will push relentlessly for a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit, less reliance on “sin” taxes that hurt low-income households much more than others, and less use of tax expenditures that help the most well off at the expense of the rest of us.
What would you most like Oklahoma to become a “Top 10 State” in?
Upward economic mobility. Virtually every study in the last decade shows that the American dream is just that for way too many of us. While each new generation was better off than the one before up to the Baby Boomers, each new generation since is worse off. And the chances of doing “better than my parents” is slipping away for Oklahomans at all but the very highest levels of wealth and income. Not coincidentally, the impact of this stagnation in economic mobility hurts minorities, women, and the lowest income among us more than anyone.
At OK Policy, we believe Oklahomans can and want to change this dynamic. That’s why we work for better education and health care, for programs that help create wealth at all rungs on the economic ladder, and a second chance for those who have been incarcerated.
What else should OK Policy’s readers know about you?
I grew up in Oregon and have lived in Maryland, Oklahoma, California, and Oklahoma. Barring some time in North Dakota just to get all directions available in the U.S., I’ll never be a native but this will always be home. For fun, my wife Carmelita and I see/hear lots of live music, consume worrying amounts of coffee, read, and travel across Oklahoma, the U.S., and the world.