The recession and lower tax revenues are crimping state and local budgets, so it’s good to see several policy groups are making it easier for Oklahomans to find information about their government spending and taxation.
The Oklahoma Policy Institute has just released its Online Budget Guide, a detailed look at state and local budgets in Oklahoma.
I’ve spent a little time checking out the site, and it’s certainly comprehensive. There’s a wealth of information, and the Oklahoma Policy Institute folks say they are committed to keeping the facts and figures timely and relevant. They plan to later add information about federal stimulus spending in Oklahoma and possibly details of state and local bond debt.
As Matt Guillory, executive director of the institute, puts it:
“We’ve designed the Guide to be a resource for anyone interested or affected by government finance in Oklahoma. Those just getting interested will find it to be a clear and simple overview, but it will also serve as a great reference tool for legislators, advocates, members of the media, teachers and others with greater experience in budget issues.”
The nice thing about the guide is that it also includes information on all types of money flowing into state and local coffers, not just sales, income or property taxes. For example, it has information on federal pass-through money, user charges, utilities and trust revenues.
On the expenditure side, the guide has a look at where the money goes and how effective that spending is.
“This is a look at not only what we’re spending, but what we’re getting in return,” said Paul Shinn, the institute’s consultant and the primary author of the guide.
The Policy Challenges section gets into the institute’s bread-and-butter advocacy for tax fairness in Oklahoma, as well as some long-term fiscal challenges that lawmakers will have to deal with in the future.
“We don’t pretend to have solutions, but we offer options,” Shinn said.
If you want the Cliff’s Notes version of the budget guide, you can download the highlights here.
Written by Paul Monies