Visualizing where the money goes

Every year during state budget discussions, state leaders speak about prioritizing spending to protect core services. That’s especially true when times are bad and the overall budget pie is shrinking. However, the distribution of that pie among agencies over the past decade has remained relatively unchanged (with a couple notable exceptions).

A series of visualizations created with the online tool Many Eyes illustrates this fact well. The graphs are derived from data compiled by OK Policy on the percentage of total state appropriations received by the ten largest agencies, plus another category for all other agencies, from FY ’00 to FY’12.

Click on any of the images below to see a larger, interactive version.

FY '12 Appropriations Percentages

First, this bubble chart shows the percentage of total appropriations each agency received in FY ’12. (Click the image to see the bubble sizes for previous years.) This shows that the 10 largest state agencies receive almost 90 percent of appropriations dollars. About a third of the budget goes to Common Education, and the combination of Common Education, Higher Education, and Career Tech make up half of the budget.

Oklahoma State Agency Appropriations Percentages, '00-'12

This stack graph shows the change from year to year in percentages going to each agency. Since FY ’00, the percentage going to all except two of the top ten agencies has changed by less than a percentage point. Exceptions are: (1) Transportation, which saw a large decline in its appropriations budget but was supplemented with a number of bond issues, and (2) the Health Care Authority, which experienced a significant increase.

Relative Change in Appropriations Percentages, '00-'12

That change is displayed most dramatically in this chart, which shows the percent change of the share going to each agency with an FY ’00 baseline. The Health Care Authority, which administers the Medicaid health insurance program, shows the most dramatic deviation, due to factors largely out of the state’s control — the rising cost of health care and the decline of employer-based coverage, along with federal requirements to provide care for those in need. Most agencies hover in the middle, though Juvenile Affairs has seen a gradual decline and Mental Health and DHS have seen a gradual increase. Common Education’s share of the total budget has remained very consistent throughout the 12-year period.

All of the top ten state agencies’ functions fall under categories that are considered core services: education, transportation, public safety, health, and human services. While this data provides only a very broad view of the state budget situation, it does reveal how little leeway lawmakers have to protect some agencies over others when overall revenues decrease.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. 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.

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