“A tale of two economies” — Oklahoma’s economic advance continues amidst U.S. lethargy

The weather in Oklahoma is finally moderated, but the state economy continues to perform at a comparatively torrid pace – at least, that is, in comparison to the anemic U.S. economy as a whole. Among other leading indicators, state Treasurer Ken Miller’s monthly briefing on the Sooner State’s gross revenues provided a broad overview supporting that hopeful view.

Jobs and overall productive activity are yielding tax revenues that are on the way to putting the state government back where it was as the Great Recession intensified in 2009.

Gross revenues are up 15.2 percent over last year at the same time, Miller reported at his monthly briefing for Capitol reporters. He observed, “During the prolonged recession, 12-month collections in Oklahoma dropped by more than $1.9 billion between December 2008 and February 2010. As of August, we have recovered $1 billion, or more than 50 percent of that lost economic activity.” 

The state’s consumer and business confidence rating has moderated, leading Miller to say that “irrational behavior in Washington and on Wall Street has provided a rational response in Oklahoma, in the form of a decline in confidence.” 

In response to a question from CapitolBeatOK, Miller said that President Barack Obama’s advocacy for punitive steps toward business and high-income earners, in the midst of the stalled economy, are having a negative effect on the chief executive’s approval ratings. 

“The person at the top either gets the credit or the blame in times like this. Finally, maybe, the President and Congress will take action.” Obama’s speech on Thursday evening, Miller reflected, seems most likely “a political speech, intended to bolster confidence. If he had a substantive jobs program he would have announced it already.”

When comparing Oklahoma’s comparatively robust data to the national picture, Miller said, “It’s really a tale of two economies. We know we’re moving in the right direction, but Oklahoma can’t swim against the tide forever.”

Miller pointed to economic troubles in the European Union, including a large dip in stock market values there yesterday (Monday, September 5). He noted that today (Tuesday, September 6), U.S. stockholders appear to be engaged in a sell-off in response to the negative news from overseas.

Responding to a question from CapitolBeatOK, Miller said he believes confidence and performance is holding better in Asia, at least for now. China, he reflected, “has problems but not yet like those in Europe.” 

In his discussion with reporters, Miller said the legislative examination of tax credits and business incentive programs remains important. He pointed out the moratorium on approximately $200 million of credits will end next July, meaning the state will face choices on whether to allow the exemptions to come back into effect or to extend the moratorium. 

Editor’s Note:  Treasurer Miller’s detailed assessment of revenue categories will be posted in a separate story.