Following the money
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