Oklahoma's credit ratings good, but could be better

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: July 20, 2012

A listing of Standard & Poor's credit ratings history for all 50 states shows Oklahoma is in good shape with an AA+ rating, the second-best given by S&P. Only 13 states have higher ratings, and 22 are rated lower.

One thing preventing Oklahoma from achieving S&P's top rating is that we don't have more bonded indebtedness. That may surprise some, but ratings agencies see that as a sign of neglect of basic infrastructure. The failure to maintain and address core needs today means higher expenses tomorrow.

Obviously, bond debt shouldn't be employed willy-nilly for every special-interest project, but true state needs serving a broad public function are legitimate. We believe the Office of the Medical Examiner and repair of the Oklahoma Capitol both qualify. By neglecting these needs, lawmakers are actually increasing the cost taxpayers will ultimately bear.

The S&P ratings also undermine tax-cut opponents because they show that high taxes don't ensure better results. With a top rate above 10 percent, California has one of the highest income taxes of all 50 states — and the worst credit rating (A-). Likewise, Hawaii, New Jersey and New York have very high income tax rates and credit ratings lower than Oklahoma.

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