The taxes and other funds governments take in go back into the economy in the form of public investments that help communities thrive. Whether spent on teacher salaries, building roads, providing health care, or maintaining parks, these resources support a quality of life that benefits businesses and families and promotes prosperity. This section provides information about state and local government in Oklahoma.
- Oklahoma governments spend well below the national average per person: $8,781 in 2016, compared to $10,854 nationwide. Our state and local government spending per person ranked 45th among states in 2016, according to the Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center.
- The bulk of spending by Oklahoma governments is at the state level. Of nearly $35 billion spent in 2016, 59 percent was by state government, and the rest by local governments.
- The largest share of total state spending goes to health and social services (38 percent) and education (23 percent).
- Appropriations by the Legislature ($7.7 billion in fiscal year 2021) are essential to funding state services but represent less than half of the state’s total spending.
- Eighty-eight percent of total state appropriations go to the ten largest agencies, with common education getting the single largest share (39 percent). Just over half of all appropriations (51 percent) goes to education agencies and almost one third (31 percent) funds health and social services.
- Most Oklahoma state agencies also spend money from the federal government and from user charges – like fishing licenses or college tuition — and other revenues.
- About 1,900 public entities provide public services in Oklahoma, most of them local governments. Over two-fifths of all local spending is on education, but local governments also provide essential transportation, public safety and health services and operate utilities like water and electricity.
Since our nation’s earliest history, citizens have come together for the common good – pooling resources through government to make and enforce laws that promote commerce and civic life; protect us from foreign aggression, crime, fire, and disease; build transportation networks; and enable all members of society to be safe, secure, healthy, and prosperous. The great triumphs of the United States — immigration, westward expansion, new technologies, and advances in education — required public investment. Oklahomans benefit from government’s role in this investment every day.
Public investments over the years have made Oklahoma a vibrant state and a great place to live. Without the revenues residents contribute to the public good, there would not have been land runs, universal public education, affordable public colleges, public parks and libraries, state-of-the-art highways, ports or airports. There is much more to be done though, to help make sure everyone has the opportunity to prosper, and to preserve the gains made over decades. To help all Oklahomans reach their full potential in an expanding economy we need to:
- Make sure the resources are available for public investment in the common good.
- Work together in a bipartisan manner to create and support a vision of a state that works for all.
- Hold elected officials and government agencies accountable for achieving public goals in the most cost-effective way.
This section serves as a report card on public investment in Oklahoma. It explains what we spend, how we spend, where we are succeeding, and where we are falling short.
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