When government gets too small (Tulsa World)

Original at http://www.tulsaworld.com/blogs/post.aspx/?When_government_gets_too_small/30-11182

 by Wayne Greene, Tulsa World

David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, made an interesting argument that state government is getting too small Friday morning at the Dilly Deli.

During a recession that has caused consecutive years of state budget cuts, some have argued that the state has had a chance to “right size” its government.

Whether it’s right or not, the smallering of state government is moving ahead.

Next year’s state spending is likely to be about $500 million smaller than this year’s budget, which was smaller than the year before that.

Funds the state has relied on to buoy its budget partially in the first part of the recession – federal stimulus money, the state’s rainy day fund, and accounting tricks – are largely played out.

Although state tax revenue is up from last year, it hasn’t gotten back to pre-recession levels, and because of tax cuts and other fiscal decisions, state spending isn’t likely to get to pre-recession levels until 2014, Blatt said.

“The end of this is not in sight,” Blatt said. “We don’t see any real recovery.”

Blatt points out that the state is in 49th place in the nation in teacher pay, second in the nation in its number of deficient bridges, and that state employees haven’t have a pay raise in five years.

“There’s not much more you can cut without causing real harm to families and businesses,” he said.

Conservative argue that money spent on state taxes is money not invested in business, and Blatt said there is some truth to that.

But, he pointed out, business growth depends on government adequately providing police protection, educating a work force, enforcing commercial laws in the courts, efficiently issuing permits, controlling the spread of disease, providing an adequate transportation network, maintaining marketplace controls that result in consumer trust and funding research.

All of those core government services are undercut by the “new fiscal reality” at the state Capitol, he said.

“Government may have gotten too small,” he said.


Oklahoma Policy Insititute (OK Policy) advances equitable and fiscally responsible policies that expand opportunity for all Oklahomans through non-partisan research, analysis, and advocacy.

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