Fol­low­ing the money

The Oklahoman (Sunday) - - OPINION -

Ok­la­homa’s Com­pre­hen­sive An­nual Fi­nan­cial Re­port (CAFR) for 2016 is avail­able on­line. It’s one of the more in­for­ma­tive doc­u­ments about how tax­payer dol­lars are spent. Th­ese are au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ments for statewide gov­ern­ment. The CAFR con­cludes with op­er­a­tional in­di­ca­tors of ser­vices pro­vided, in­clud­ing such ta­bles as those served by the pub­lic ed­u­ca­tional sys­tem — K-12, two-year col­leges, uni­ver­si­ties and Ca­reerTech. The 10-year growth in men­tal health and sub­stance abuse clients served is stag­ger­ing and points to the im­men­sity of in­ter­re­lated prob­lems in our ed­u­ca­tional, crim­i­nal jus­tice, cor­rec­tions and al­lied health care pro­grams.

Cu­ri­ous about our abil­ity to gen­er­ally main­tain bond rat­ings, I noted some good debt ser­vice cov­er­age ra­tios and rel­a­tively man­age­able debt over­all. In­abil­ity to solve our rev­enue prob­lems and use of one-time funds and fund bal­ances may erode that cred­i­bil­ity. Gov. Fallin’s re­cent re­as­sur­ances on “Flash­point” pro­vided a small mea­sure of hope.

Another good state-pro­duced doc­u­ment is the 2017 Ok­la­homa Eco­nomic In­di­ca­tors. It gives some sense of where “gov­ern­ment” fits into Ok­la­homa’s GDP. Ok­la­homa’s to­tal state gov­ern­ment ex­pen­di­tures, though sig­nif­i­cant, make up only 14.4 per­cent of Ok­la­homa’s GDP, and our an­nual state ap­pro­pri­a­tions are less than 4 per­cent of Ok­la­homa’s to­tal eco­nomic out­put. Pass­ing a bal­anced state bud­get is tor­tur­ous be­cause in a state with an an­nual GDP of $185.5 bil­lion, an ap­pro­pri­a­tion of $6 bil­lion-$7 bil­lion mat­ters — par­tic­u­larly when it’s tied to the reg­u­la­tory pow­ers that af­fect the fate of those pro­duc­ing the other $179 bil­lion in out­put.

Jan New, Ok­la­homa City

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