Think tank: Step Up Oklahoma’s lost opportunity
By Byron Schlomach and Vance H. Fried, February 4, 2018
Whether you are a fan of Step Up Oklahoma or think of it as Pay Up Oklahoma, there is no denying the plan is long on taxes and short on reform.
Step Up promoters say it will raise taxes but also reform state and local government to increase efficiency and reduce abuse. But other than an independent state budget office and some additional transparency, the plan does little to improve government.
With their priority on increasing tax revenues, Step Up supporters are saying Oklahoma’s government operations and funding systems are basically sound. Yet they plainly are not. Texas’ roads have long been better than ours, their teachers better paid, and local governments better funded. Yet Texas, until recently, spent less per capita than Oklahoma and still does when cost of living is taken into account. Besides, why is more than 13 percent of Oklahomans’ personal income for state and local government too little?
The fear seems to be that a government short of what it wants to spend presents an economic risk to Oklahoma citizens. But the real risk is continuing to do things the same old way, rather than reforming crony and inefficient policies. The Step Up plan reinforces the old system with its focus on how much government spends, not how it spends it.