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Looking at Oklahoma’s Economy

Filed by Michael Cross in Feature, Local News, News.
December 14, 2011

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Experts say the state’s economic forecast looks good, but there’s some reason for caution.

The OSU Spears School of Business held the Oklahoma Economic Outlook Forecast at Metro Technology centers in Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

Oil and gas production is the driving force behind our state’s economic growth which is slightly better than the US as a whole.

In fact, energy production is running about the same percentage of Oklahoma GDP as it was in the late 70s and early 80s during the oil boom.

Chad Wilkerson from the Federal Reserve of Kansas City says it’s certainly a reason for optimism in the Sooner State.

“Next year energy prices remain high or are generally expected to remain high for oil anyway. Home prices have stayed largely stable the last five years, so people’s equity has stayed fairly stable.”

Wilkerson says there is concern right now over the growing cost of farmland in Oklahoma and throughout the Great Plain states.

There’s also caution because of worries in world economies such as Europe, Russia and China.

The economic growth has led some lawmakers to discuss eliminating the state’s personal income tax.

UCO Dean of Business Mickey Hepner spoke to the conference on behalf of the Oklahoma Academy, a non-partisan group of business, government and education leaders.

He says the group fears eliminating the personal income tax will truly impact low and middle income families without creating an economic benefit for the state.

“You either have to cut government spending on things like education and health care, roads and prisons, all of which enhance the quality of life in this state, or you have to raise sales taxes which are already high or property taxes which are incredibly unpopular in this state.”

Hepner says the Oklahoma economy and median household income are growing stronger than most of the states without personal income taxes.

The only statewide elected official to attend the conference was Treasurer Ken Miller.

On the subject of eliminating the income tax, Miller says lawmakers need to have a responsible discussion based on facts and data not on politics.

“We need to take this slow and be measured and cautious and make sure we get it right. If we break it we own it. It’s too important to our citizens and their jobs and their incomes. We have to make sure that we get this policy discussion on taxation right.”

Conference speakers also touched on the fact that Oklahoma’s population growth is lower than the national average especially in rural areas.

Also, recent data shows while house hold income is growing in the state so is poverty rates.

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