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Oklahoma's state budgeting system could use more vision

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: March 4, 2012

KEN Miller is state government's top money guy. So when he talks about state revenues and tax policy, we should listen.

Not everyone liked what Miller, the state treasurer, had to say last spring. He called the fiscal 2012 budget “one of the bigger disappointments this year.” As a member of the Class of 2010 Republicans who took control of state government, he was particularly disappointed that it was the GOP's budget.

“This was our first real opportunity to right-size government, implement priority-based budgeting and to prove commitment to public education,” he said then. “Fortunately, it will not be our last opportunity.”

So here we are, having passed the first fourth of the 2012 legislative session, and Miller is again talking about a better budgeting system. We're listening. The people and his fellow Republicans should listen as well.

The state keeps expecting different results while doing things the same way: Funding levels from the prior year are matched to available revenues. This takes a calculator but not a vision. We need a vision.

The treasurer is concerned about the spending side in a year when fellow Republicans are focused on the revenue side, specifically tax cuts. While tax cuts shouldn't be derided, we join Miller in saying that every dollar in tax cuts must be matched with a dollar of spending cuts or tax credit cuts. Eliminating “waste and duplication” in government, the standard stuff of tax-cutting rhetoric, won't pay the freight.

Proposals to significantly reduce or eliminate the personal income tax are advancing. Never have so many people of importance been so focused on this goal. But the blowback is equally focused: Lobbyists for special interest groups that use tax credits are erecting barricades. Average citizens are alarmed over the prospect of losing deductions and exemptions to pay for tax cuts. The battle is joined by tax consumers such as state employees who simply don't want income taxes reduced.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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