The Edmond Sun


May 20, 2013

BY THE NUMBERS: Oklahoma still needs to invest in its economy

EDMOND — After six months of stagnation, the Oklahoma economy finally appears to be expanding again albeit still weakly. Unfortunately, our leaders aren’t making the investments we need to give our economic prospects a boost.

Last week the Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services reported that in April state General Revenue fund collections were 5.2 percent above the estimate and 14.7 percent higher than last year’s collections. Under normal circumstances, such a report would indicate that the Oklahoma economy was very strong. But this isn’t a normal circumstance, and April isn’t a normal month.

Upon closer inspection, it is clear the strength of the revenue report was driven by a sudden jump in income tax collections. Given that April is the month that 2012 tax payments are due, the strong revenues likely reflect the strength of the 2012 Oklahoma economy as much as the 2013 economy. Throughout most of 2012, we know that the Oklahoma economy was robust — something that undoubtedly affected April 2013’s income tax collections.

State sales tax collections, an arguably more reliable indicator of economic well-being, continued to be relatively weak. According to the OMES report, state sales tax collections in April were 6.6 percent below the estimate and 3.4 percent below last year’s collections. This weakness, which should be apparent in the revenue reports for the next several months, confirms what I’ve been reporting for months, that the Oklahoma economy has been slowing considerably.

The good news though, is that it looks as if the Oklahoma economy is once again starting to expand. Seasonally adjusted state sales tax collections, which had been declining slightly at the beginning of the year, have now started to rise (albeit slightly) in April. While the economy is far from booming, it is at least not contracting at the moment.

While the state revenue reports are likely to remain weak for the next few months, the data indicate that the turnaround is coming. Unfortunately, the weakness from the last several months is not reflected in the fiscal year 2014 revenue estimates the State Equalization Board certified in February. As a result, FY 2014 revenue collections are likely to be considerably lower than the estimates released just a few months ago.

Given that the Legislature has already approved a tax cut for next year, and state funding for core services like education, children’s health care, roads and prisons, still remain below pre-recession levels, further weakness in state tax collections means further weakness in the state’s ability to provide these necessary government services. At a time when state leaders are clearly not making the investment in education that other states make; when we still have too many Oklahoma children lacking health insurance; when our public safety officers continue to be paid at critically low levels — more cuts in state funding are questionable even during the best economic conditions. At a time when state revenue growth is also in doubt, further tax cuts are simply irresponsible.

Oklahoma cannot expect to continue growing our state economy by ranking 48th in the nation in per-pupil education funding. Oklahoma cannot expect to promote job growth by continuing to defer maintenance on our failing roads and bridges. And Oklahoma cannot enhance our quality of life by ignoring the needs of our public safety officers.

But that is the path we’ve chosen. For now, the Oklahoma economy is growing again. But the Legislature’s unwillingness to invest in our future means that our growth won’t be what it should be.


MICKEY HEPNER is the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Oklahoma. Hepner serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for The Oklahoma Academy.

Text Only
  • Film critic Turan produces book

    Kenneth Turan, who is the film critic for National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” has written a book “Not to be Missed, Fifty-Four Favorites from a Life Time of Film.” His list of movies span the gamut from the beginnings of filmmaking through the present day.
    There are some surprising omissions on his list. While he includes two films, “A Touch of Evil” and Chimes at Midnight” made by Orson Welles, and one, “The Third Man,” that Welles starred in but did not direct. He did not however, include “Citizen Kane,” that was the first movie Welles made, that is  often cited by both film critics and historians as a favorite film.

    July 28, 2014

  • Logan County’s disputed zone

    Watchers of “Star Trek” may recall the episode from the original series entitled, “Day of the Dove.” In this episode, Captain Kirk and his crew are forced by a series of circumstances into a confrontation with the Klingons. The conflict eventually resolves after Kirk realizes that the circumstances have been intentionally designed by an alien force which feeds off negative emotions, especially fear and anger. Kirk and his crew communicate this fact to the Klingons and the conflict subsides. No longer feeding upon confrontation, the alien force is weakened and successfully driven away.

    July 28, 2014

  • Russell leads in Sun poll

    Polling results of an unscientific poll at show that Steve Russell, GOP candidate for the 5th District congressional seat, is in the lead with 57 percent of the vote ahead of the Aug. 26 runoff election. Thirty readers participated in the online poll.

    July 28, 2014

  • Healthier and Wealthier? Not in Oklahoma

    Increased copays, decreased coverage, diminished health care access, reduced provider budgets and increased frustration are all the outcomes of the Legislature’s 2014 health care funding decisions. Unlike some years in the past when a languishing state economy forced legislators into making cuts, the undesirable outcomes this year could easily have been avoided.

    July 26, 2014

  • Medicaid reform a necessity

    Historically, education spending by the state of Oklahoma has been the largest budget item. This is no longer the case. In recent years, the state of Oklahoma spends more on Medicaid (operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority) than common education and higher education combined, according to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.

    July 25, 2014

  • Remembering lessons from 1974

    This week marks the 40th anniversary of an important milestone in America’s constitutional history. On July 24, 1974, the Supreme Court voted 8-0 to order the Nixon White House to turn over audiotapes that would prove the president and his close aides were guilty of criminal violations. This ruling established with crystal clarity that the executive branch could not hide behind the shield of executive privilege to protect itself from the consequences of illegal behavior. It was a triumph for the continued vitality of our constitutional form of government.

    July 25, 2014

  • RedBlueAmerica: Is parenting being criminalized in America?

    Debra Harrell was arrested recently after the McDonald’s employee let her daughter spend the day playing in a nearby park while she worked her shift. The South Carolina woman says her daughter had a cell phone in case of danger, and critics say that children once were given the independence to spend a few unsupervised hours in a park.
    Is it a crime to parent “free-range” kids? Does Harrell deserve her problems? Joel Mathis and Ben Boychuk, the RedBlueAmerica columnists, debate the issue.

    July 24, 2014

  • Technology that will stimulate journalism’s future is now here

    To say technology has changed the newspaper media industry is understating the obvious. While much discussion focuses on how we read the news, technology is changing the way we report the news. The image of a reporter showing up to a scene with a pen and a pad is iconic but lost to the vestiges of time.
    I am asked frequently about the future of newspapers and, in particular, what does a successful future look like. For journalists, to be successful is to command multiple technologies and share news with readers in new and exciting ways.

    July 23, 2014

  • New Orleans features its own “Running of the Bulls”

    On July12, the streets of the Warehouse District of New Orleans were filled with thousands of young men who were seeking to avoid being hit with plastic bats wielded by women on roller skates as part of the annual “Running of the Bulls” that takes place in New Orleans.
    The event is based on the “Running of the Bulls” that occurs in Pamplona, Spain, that is  part of an annual occurrence in which a group of bulls rampage through the streets of Pamplona while men run from them to avoid being gored by their sharp horns. That event was introduced to the English-speaking world by Ernest Hemingway, who included scenes from it in his critically acclaimed 1926 novel “The Sun also Rises.”

    July 22, 2014

  • OTHER VIEW: Newsday: Lapses on deadly diseases demand explanation

    When we heard that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had created a potentially lethal safety risk by improperly sending deadly pathogens — like anthrax — to other laboratories around the country, our first reaction was disbelief.

    July 22, 2014


If the Republican runoff for the 5th District congressional seat were today, which candidate would you vote for?

Patrice Douglas
Steve Russell
     View Results