Oklahoma Taxpayers Are Fiscal Conservatives, Poll Says

Published August 1, 2004

On June 1, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) released the results of its most recent survey of 400 Oklahoma voters. The majority surveyed called themselves conservative, desired a smaller state government, and would rather see budget cuts than tax increases when facing a state budget deficit.

The survey also showed Oklahoma taxpayers would like some type of “tax limitation” law and elimination of estate taxes.

“The survey of 400 registered Oklahoma voters (conducted May 10-12) showed that nearly 70 percent of Oklahomans consider themselves conservative, and it revealed a majority of Oklahomans want pro-growth tax cuts, workers’ compensation reform, and school choice [not bigger government],” noted the OCPA news release summarizing the survey results.

Many of the issues raised by taxpayers in the survey are not being addressed by the state legislature, OCPA noted. “As the second session of the 49th Oklahoma Legislature ends, Oklahoma conservatives do not have much to cheer about. … [T]hat means a majority of Oklahomans do not either.”

Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry (R) signed a $5.3 billion spending bill for the fiscal year that began July 1, but the revenue side of the budget remains unsettled. The governor has proposed a package of tax hikes as well as tax cuts, but no action has been taken on that plan or any other.

Big No to Big Government

Only 16 percent of respondents to the OCPA survey thought state policymakers should raise taxes to address budget shortfalls. Fully 73 percent preferred spending cuts, with 11 percent undecided.

State policymakers, however, have tended to prefer spending increases rather than cuts. “Unfortunately, over the years governors and legislators have usually chosen to add new programs to the state budget without considering the merits of existing programs and finding ways to fund higher-priority items by eliminating lower-priority items,” notes OCPA.

“As a result, the budget has grown by leaps and bounds. Until state leaders learn to exercise fiscal discipline, or until the people write fiscal discipline into the constitution with an expenditure limit (such as a Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights), the budget will continue to expand during years of normal or superlative revenue growth, creating strong pressure on state lawmakers to raise taxes in tight years.”

Government Growth Outstripping Inflation

“Most people would agree that state government growth should keep up with population growth and inflation. That is a reasonable benchmark,” says OCPA. “But looking back over the last 15 years, we see that state government growth has exceeded that benchmark. Regardless of which measuring device we use–appropriations, total state tax collections, or total government collections–government growth outpaces population growth and inflation.”

What OK Voters Want

John Skorburg is managing editor of Budget & Tax News. His email address is [email protected].

For more information …

The results of the OCPA survey, conducted by Cole, Hargrave, Snodgrass & Associates, can be viewed online at http://www.ocpathink.org/ViewEvent.asp?ID=62.