More than 100 days into this current legislative session, Oklahoma lawmakers emerged from weeks of closed door discussions to release details for the coming year’s state budget.
Based on the information presented during a Thursday afternoon media conference, we’re pleased to hear lawmakers are funding Medicaid expansion, are planning additional investments in public education and broadband infrastructure, and are including a 7 percent aggregate increase for state agency budgets. We’re also pleased to hear that lawmakers intend to restore refundability for the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, a program that enjoys broad bipartisan support nationwide and would provide valuable relief to our state’s low-income workers.
However, we remained deeply concerned that lawmakers are moving forward with cuts to corporate and individual income taxes. While the tax cuts appear to be lower than were initially proposed this session, any revenue cut comes with real economic impact to our communities. Economists estimate that every $1 cut from state spending takes $1.50 out of our economy as a result of lost jobs and reduced personal income.
Oklahoma has cut its revenue base for more than two decades, reducing the state budget by more than 25% since 2000. As a result of this continued disinvestment, vital state programs and services remain chronically underfunded and unable to meet the growing needs of Oklahomans, especially in the wake of the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
We saw those needs over the summer as Oklahomans lined up pre-dawn to wait for hours in the hopes of connecting with their unemployment benefits, and we see it today in the long lines to even renew a driver’s license or a car tag.
While Thursday’s press conference announced a broad outline for the budget plan, lawmakers have yet to release the bills that provide the details for next year’s state budget that starts on July 1. With less than two weeks left in this session, this short window leaves Oklahoma taxpayers at a significant disadvantage to provide meaningful feedback to lawmakers’ budget proposal.
Oklahoma lags far behind neighboring states both when it comes to how soon budget bills are introduced and how long they are publicly deliberated. Our taxpayers should have the same opportunities as those living in surrounding states when it comes to having a voice in allocating scarce resources in a way that more closely reflects their preferences and our state’s needs.
Quote from Oklahoma Policy Institute Executive Director Ahniwake Rose:
“While we’re heartened to hear the state plans to make investments in education, broadband, and health care, the proposed personal and corporate income tax cuts would continue a dangerous trend of limiting state revenue, which is difficult to reverse thanks to SQ 640’s supermajority requirement for new revenue. While we have a budget surplus this year thanks in large part to federal relief dollars, cutting revenue streams today leaves us ill-prepared for the next economic downturn. And since Oklahoma has declared six revenue failures in just little more than a decade, that possibility seems highly likely.”