Welcome to the Online Budget Guide
State and local governments provide an essential foundation for Oklahoma’s society and economy. There may be many things that divide us as Oklahomans, but the vision of what a thriving, successful state looks like is widely shared, whatever our ideological leanings or political perspectives. We all want a state that ensures the best possible schools, jobs, health, and communities for all our residents.
To reach our common goals, we need state and local governments as an active and effective participant. Government on its own cannot ensure that we meet all of our goals, but government has an indispensable role in ensuring that everyone has access to a basic education, that streets and homes are safe, lawbreakers are punished, roads and bridges are maintained, economic ground rules are enforced, natural resources are protected, and those most in need are taken care of. In most of these areas, the various levels of government act in partnership with the private sector, non-profit organizations, philanthropy, the faith community, families, and individuals to meet our common goals.
To understand how state and local governments operate in Oklahoma, we especially need to understand the budget. The budget is how we allocate resources across all of our publicly-supported institutions – not just state and local government agencies, but a myriad of private entities that receive public funds to do such things as build roads, operate nursing homes, or provide child care. The budget is a financial document, but it is also a moral document. How we allocate dollars reflects our common priorities and affects our common achievements. The same is true of how we divide the responsibility to pay for our public services and infrastructure. The taxes and other revenues collected by government represent each person’s investment in shared prosperity.
Because we depend on government to support the common good and because we share in paying for the costs of government, many of us expect to influence its decisions. We can do that through elections, but their effect is limited. If we want to improve government services or the way we pay for them, we need to take more specific actions. And we cannot do that without a clear understanding of where we are and how we got here. That’s where this Online Budget Guide comes in.
OK Policy’s Online Budget Guide is a tool for users to understand Oklahoma state and local governments, particularly how they collect and spend money. The Online Budget Guide is intended as a comprehensive resource that combines state and local governments. It looks at all sources of funding, not just the major taxes, and all spending, not just state appropriations. To the extent possible, it provides data showing how Oklahoma compares to other states and how spending and taxes have changed over time.
We think you will find the Guide helpful and informative, no matter who you are. For those just getting interested in state and local government, like students, newly elected leaders, new public employees, and businesses that want to work with government, it’s a broad introductory text. For readers who are more experienced in government, including legislators, public officials and employees, and interest groups, the Guide can help answer quick questions, from what are the steps in the annual appropriations process to how federal grants are allocated.
For all users, we want the Guide to be a next step, not the last one. We hope our links to national and state information sources, ideas for getting involved in the budget process, and guide to upcoming policy challenges will keep you interested and involved.
What’s In the Guide
The Online Budget Guide is organized into five main chapters:
- Expenditures looks at how our state and local governments spend money, what they are achieving, and where they are falling short;
- Revenues looks at taxes and other revenue streams that support our state and local governments;
- Budget Process looks at how the Oklahoma state budget is developed, implemented and monitored;
- Policy Challenges We Face looks at the challenges and choices we face in ensuring adequate funding of public services through a fair tax system;
- Next Steps offers the reader suggestions for where to go to learn more and be more actively engaged on these issues.
The Guide has many options for navigating and using it. The Online Budget Guide is structured like a book, in that it has sections that would be chapters in a printed version and a logical order that flows from page to page. You can read the Guide from front to back by clicking the “Go on to…” link at the bottom of each page. You can go to the previous page with the “Go back to…” link also found at the bottom of each page.
The advantage of an online presentation, though, is that you can jump right in to the specific information you need, or you can read whatever interests you in whatever order makes sense to you. We have other navigating tools that help you do this.
- On the right-hand panel, you’ll find the menu structure. It always shows the five sections, or chapters, along with supporting material like the executive summary, table of contents, and glossary. When you start reading one of the sections, the menu for that section expands, so you can see the options that section affords.
- At the bottom of many pages, you’ll find links to a series of pages. These are the pages that form the next level down (major sections of a chapter, for example).
This version was updated in 2016 and includes state budget information for FY 2017, which started July 1, 2016. If you find any errors in the Guide, please let us know by email, firstname.lastname@example.org
Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Online Budget Guide is authored by Paul Shinn, Ken Kickham, David Blatt, and Gene Perry.
About the Authors
Paul Shinn, Ph.D., is the principal author of the Online Budget Guide. He has held finance, research, and teaching positions in several Oklahoma state agencies, universities, local governments, and nonprofits in the last 25 years.
Kenneth Kickham, Ph.D., led the 2016 update of the Guide. Dr. Kickham is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Central Oklahoma, where has taught courses on public budgeting for the last ten years. Previously he worked with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services as a Research Analyst and then in the Budget Unit as a Comptroller.
David Blatt, Ph.D., oversaw the editing of the Guide. He helped found Oklahoma Policy Institute and has served as Executive Director since 2010. Previously he served as a fiscal analyst for the Oklahoma State Senate. He earned his Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University.
Gene Perry designed the charts found in the Guide and prepared it for publication online and in ebook format [EPUB, MOBI]. He joined Oklahoma Policy in January 2011 and has served as Policy Director since December 2013. He has a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Oklahoma.