OCPA to release annual budget book

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) will release its annual OCPA Budget Book at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, March 25 in the media room (432B) on the fourth floor of the state Capitol. 

This proposed budget by OCPA focuses on how the state can responsibly utilize Oklahomans’ hard-earned dollars to fund core government functions while also providing tax relief. 

The group deems the book, “a state budget that respects your family budget.”

The OCPA Budget Book shows how Oklahoma’s top personal income tax rate could be cut by half a percentage point, dropping the rate from 5.25 percent to 4.75 percent, without raising anyone’s taxes or cutting one dollar in funding for education, transportation or public safety.

Currently, Gov. Mary Fallin and House Speaker T.W. Shannon (R-Lawton) are pursuing a proposal that would reduce Oklahoma’s personal income tax rate by a quarter percentage point.

“Governor Fallin and Speaker Shannon are leading the way in 2013 on pro-growth tax cuts,” said Jonathan Small, OCPA’s fiscal policy director. “Their plan is true tax relief, and OCPA’s proposal merely shows it’s possible to take that pro-growth mentality an additional step forward without jeopardizing funding to the commonly agreed-upon core functions of government.”

Kansas dropped its income tax rate below Oklahoma’s last year, and Gov. Sam Brownback has stated his intention to drop his state’s rate further. Other nearby states including Louisiana, Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas also are considering proposals to phase out or reduce income taxes.

Small said OCPA’s recommended tax cut can be achieved by utilizing growth revenue — generated in part by previous income tax cuts — and savings from reductions in spending on non-essential areas of state government.

Such areas include: reforming Medicaid to produce better health outcomes at a lower cost, no longer overpaying for state employee health benefits, ending political earmarks and ending giveaways to nonessential state agencies and private industries that don’t need the help. 

The OCPA budget proposal also includes recommendations on how state policymakers can allow for targeted increases in financing for key items without increasing the debt load on taxpayers.

The proposal responsibly increases funding to support reforms within the state Department of Human Services, construct a new state Medical Examiner’s office, finance maintenance of the state Capitol building and maintain the state’s commitment to road and bridge improvements.

OCPA’s proposal also allows for the state to carry over an additional $270 million in savings to the following budget year, along with a balance of $570 million in the state’s Rainy Day Fund.

“With the federal government on a collision course with fiscal reality, it is critical that states prepare for the reduction in federal funding that looms on the horizon,” said Michael Carnuccio, OCPA’s president.

“That means reducing unnecessary expenditures, responsibly funding those areas of government that taxpayers consider to be core functions, and making policy changes that will encourage growth in Oklahoma’s economy.” 

Small noted that income tax cuts serve as a vaccination against the destructive policies of President Obama and his allies in the U.S. Congress. He also noted that Oklahoma families recently “took a 2-percent hit to their monthly paychecks due to the rollback of the federal payroll tax holiday.” Oklahoma state government, he reasons, should consider making a 2-percent reduction in state appropriations, which can be achieved without affecting core services. This would allow Oklahoma families to keep more of their hard-earned income.

Oklahoma’s total net tax collections are at an all-time high, as is Oklahoma’s total state government spending, Small’s analysis shows. Since Oklahoma lawmakers began cutting income tax rates in 2006, empowering citizens with greater economic freedom, state sales tax collections have grown 40 percent faster.

“Oklahoma citizens would see an average tax cut of $150 as a result of this proposal,” Small said. “This will allow more capital to remain in the private sector. It also fosters a more attractive climate for entrepreneurs, job creators, families and individuals and would allow Oklahoma to remain competitive in the race for jobs and economic growth.”

About OCPA: OCPA’s mission is to accumulate, evaluate and disseminate public policy ideas and information for Oklahoma, consistent with the principles of free enterprise, limited government and individual initiative. For more information about OCPA, visit www.ocpathink.org, or on social media sites Facebook and Twitter