Oklahoma ranks worst in the nation for long-term budget planning

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Oklahoma ranked last out of all fifty states for long-term budget planning, according to a major new report from the Washington, DC-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The report ranks the states according to how well they make use of ten key fiscal planning tools. Oklahoma scored full points for having a well-designed rainy day fund and regular budget status reports, but the state scored “Needs Improvement” or lower on all eight other metrics.

“It’s a bad sign that state leaders are making decisions with little to no information about the long-term impact,” said Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director David Blatt. “We can and should do more long-term planning to cope with economic ups and downs and improve government efficiency.”

The report examined planning tools in three broad categories:

  • A map for the future:  the budget and accompanying documents should include a detailed roadmap of the budget’s immediate and future impacts on the state’s fiscal health.
  • Professional and credible estimates:  standards and sufficient oversight are needed to guarantee that these analyses of the budget’s impacts are professional, credible, and prepared without political influence.
  • Ways to stay on course:  mechanisms should be in place to trigger any needed changes during the budget year, before too much damage is done.

Oklahoma scored worst in the “map of the future” category, because the state does not make multi-year projections for overall revenues and spending or for the impact of specific bills. Oklahoma also does not make any estimate how much it will to cost to continue delivering the same quality and quantity of public services.

“By adopting these tools, lawmakers can reduce public uncertainty about what services they will receive and what taxes they will owe, making our state more attractive to businesses,” said Blatt. “They can also help lawmakers avoid making short-sighted decisions that do long-term damage to the state’s budget and economy.”

Oklahoma scored zero points on two metrics related to oversight of the state pension system. The state does not conduct independent reviews of pension funding or assess whether pensions contributions are adequate. Oklahoma also lost points for having no mechanism to develop an independent consensus revenue forecast for upcoming years.

“Better planning encourages policymakers to take the long view, one that considers a state’s future workforce, population, and infrastructure needs,” said Elizabeth McNichol, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and co-author of the report. “A state’s budget decisions today on services like education and infrastructure affect both the state and the nation for years to come.”

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The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ full report can be found here.

A fact sheet for Oklahoma is available here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gene Perry joined OK Policy in January 2011. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism. Gene also serves on the board of the Oklahoma Sustainability Network, is a trustee of the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence, is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, and has chaired the communications advisory committee for the State Priorities Partnership, a nationwide network of state fiscal policy think tanks. He lives in Tulsa with his wife Kara Joy McKee, who is a Tulsa City Councilor.

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