The Weekly Wonk – March 4, 2011

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

While tax day is still over a month away, the state tax structure got some serious attention this week from OK Policy.  Gene Perry made the case for sales tax reform in an Okahoman op-ed this weekend, citing a new issue brief that the sales tax doesn’t raise enough revenue to fund core public services and fails to evenly distribute the costs of governing.  The state income tax is set to be slashed again in January 2012; our new fact sheet, Cutting Oklahoma’s top income tax rate: Who benefits?, reports that the bulk of the cut goes to the top 1 percent, while forty-three percent of Oklahomans receive no tax cut at all.  Unless the legislature acts, the cut will reduce available revenues for FY’12 by $38 million, and when fully phased-in, by $120 million.  OK Policy’s perspective was also included in a Tulsa world editorial chastising state leadership for a top rate tax cut in a time of budget distress.

State spending as a share of the overall economy will reach a 30-year low in 2011, according to a fact sheet released on Wednesday.  While many in the state have cautioned that government shouldn’t be allowed to grow faster than the economy, the data reveals that the exact opposite is occurring, as 2011 marks the lowest percentage of state appropriated spending as a share of personal earnings in thirty years.  In fact, we may have reached a point where we are not making the investments in the core public services that support Oklahoma families, businesses, and communities.  An editorial in the Oklahoman on Thursday contends, “Not everyone will find this as alarming as does Blatt, but his point is well taken.”

Monday featured a blog post on matched savings accounts adapted from an upcoming issue brief on savings from Oklahoma Assets, a statewide coalition committed to promoting financial security.  Individual development accounts provide a match for the deposits of low- and moderate-income savers, provided that they participate in financial education and use the savings for things like education, retirement, or homeownership.  A blog post on Tuesday takes a closer look at the Board of Equalization’s projection that Oklahoma’s oil revenues will be higher than expected due to rising prices and increased production. If their pricing assumptions prove true, oil production will continue to outpace natural gas production as an engine of growth in the energy sector.  Director David Blatt spoke with KGOU’s Kurt Gwartney this week for a segment on Oklahoma Voices, a weekly in-depth news and public affairs program, set to air Monday March 7th at 11:00am. Listen to it at 106.3 FM in Norman or 105.7 FM in Oklahoma City.

Numbers of the Week

  • $298.3 million – Child support payments collected and distributed in Oklahoma by OKDHS in FY ’10.
  • $161,610 – Average annual salary for a general practice family doctor in Oklahoma in 2009.
  • 58 percent – Percentage of Oklahoma children under age 5 with a single working parent or two working parents that require daycare.
  • 149 – Exemptions to the sales tax in Oklahoma statutes.
  • 35.7 percent – Percentage of all purchases in Oklahoma in 2003 subject to the sales tax.

Click here for source citations and archived numbers of the day.

In the Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blog posts.  You can sign up here to receive In the Know in your inbox each weekday morning and the Weekly Wonk each Friday afternoon.


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