Oklahoma’s budget basics
According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), Oklahoma’s total expenditures in fiscal year (FY) 2021 were $27.8 billion, including general funds, other state funds, bonds, and federal funds. NASBO reported that total expenditures across all states in FY 2021 were $2.7 trillion, ranging from $4.7 billion in Wyoming to $512.8 billion in California.
Each state allocates spending and taxes differently among different levels of governments, and local governments often administer programs with state funds, so combined state and local government data show a more complete picture of individual benefits and contributions when comparing states.
Per the US Census Bureau, Oklahoma’s combined state and local direct general expenditures were $32.4 billion in FY 2020 (the most recent year census data were available), or $8,165 per capita. (Census data exclude “business-like” activities such as utilities and transfers between state and local governments.) National per capita direct general expenditures were $10,540.
Oklahoma’s largest spending areas per capita were public welfare ($1,803) and elementary and secondary education ($1,723). The Census Bureau includes most Medicaid spending in public welfare but also allocates some of it to public hospitals. Per capita spending is useful for state comparisons but is an incomplete metric because it doesn’t provide any information about a state’s demographics, policy decisions, administrative procedures, or residents’ choices.
Oklahoma’s combined state and local general revenues were $36.3 billion in FY 2020, or $9,167 per capita. National per capita general revenues were $10,933. Oklahoma uses all major state and local taxes. After federal transfers, Oklahoma’s largest sources of per capita revenue were charges ($1,536), such as state university tuition and highway tolls, and general sales taxes ($1,384).
Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican, was elected in 2018 with 54 percent of the vote. The next gubernatorial election is in 2022.
Republicans control both the House of Representatives (82 Republicans to 19 Democrats) and Senate (39 Republicans to 9 Democrats), with veto-proof majorities in both houses. Control of the governor’s mansion and each house of the legislature gives Republicans a trifecta in Oklahoma. All Oklahoma House seats are on the ballot in 2022 because representatives serve two-year terms. Senators serve four-year terms; roughly half the senatorial seats are on the ballot in 2022, and the other half will be up for election in 2024.
Oklahoma’s budget institutions, rules, and constraints
Oklahoma uses an annual budget. The legislature must pass a balanced budget, but it can carry a deficit over into the following year. Oklahoma further limits both spending and revenue growth with binding budget rules, thus requiring a legislative supermajority or vote of the people to override them. A three-fourths supermajority or vote of the people is also required for any bill that raises revenue. The state limits total authorized debt and debt service incurred by the state.
(Note: Some states have informal budget institutions that constrain overall spending growth or a specific expenditure’s growth.)
Oklahoma’s current budget
Oklahoma enacted its FY 2022 budget in May 2021. According to the governor, the enacted budget included $9.1 billion in general fund spending, an increase of 8 percent over FY 2021. (Oklahoma’s definition of its general fund includes spending not included in NASBO’s definition, so the historical totals reported below are lower. See NASBO’s report for more detail.) As part of the budget, Oklahoma passed a series of tax cuts, including lowering the top individual income tax rate from 5 percent to 4.75 percent, cutting the corporate tax rate from 6 percent to 4 percent, and changing its state’s earned income tax credit from nonrefundable to refundable.
Under the American Rescue Plan, Oklahoma will receive $1.9 billion in direct state fiscal aid and $1.1 billion in local government aid from the federal government. As of January 2022, Oklahoma had spent part of its ARP funds on economic development.
According to NASBO, Oklahoma’s recent expenditure totals (general fund spending/total spending, including federal transfers) were:
FY 2022: $6.6 billion
FY 2021: $6.6 billion/$27.8 billion
FY 2020: $6.5 billion/$24.8 billion
FY 2019: $6.2 billion/$23.8 billion
For more on Oklahoma’s budget, see
Oklahoma’s economic trends
Oklahoma’s per capita income (per the Bureau of Economic Analysis) was $53,156 in 2021, ranking 42nd among the states. It was below both the national average of $63,444 and the Southwest regional average of $57,647. The state’s median household income (five-year estimate) was $53,840 in 2020, ranking 43rd among the states and below the national average of $64,994. Oklahoma’s poverty rate was 15.3 percent in 2020 (five-year estimate), above the national rate of 12.8 percent.
Although Oklahoma’s averages tell a story about the entire state, Oklahoma is composed of diverse localities. For example, the city of Stillwater’s median household income was $34,906, and its poverty rate was 33 percent; the city of Jenks’s median household income was $87,306, and its poverty rate was 6.4 percent.
Oklahoma’s unemployment rate has historically been below the national average, particularly following the Great Recession.
Unemployment rates (like other economic indicators) often vary significantly by race and ethnicity. In Oklahoma, the average unemployment rate in 2021 was 3.6 percent for white residents, 5.3 percent for Black residents, and 5.2 percent for Hispanic or Latino residents.