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OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma

State Recovery Act Website: http://oklahoma.gov/recovery/

Oklahoma's state Recovery Act website scored 20 out of 100 possible points (ranking a tied 28th) on Good Jobs First's 51-state study of state stimulus websites entitled Show Us the Stimulus. The state earned a low score by failing to disclose specific program allocations, contractor information, allocations by county or compared to economic need, or any job creation data. Contractor information: none.

Oklahoma scored more points-33 out of 100 (ranking 34th)-on its disclosure of information specifically about highway projects funded by the Recovery Act.  The state's Department of Transportation website describes highway projects and costs and names contract awardees, Contractor information: here.

For detailed scoring information, see the Oklahoma appendix of Show Us the Stimulus.

Coordination & Oversight

On March 2 Gov. Brad Henry selected State Auditor and Inspector Steve Burrage to serve as "a watchdog on stimulus expenditures." On March 11 the governor signed an executive order formally establishing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) Coordinating Council. Gov. Henry said he would serve as chairman of the Council, which also included members of the governor's cabinet, statewide elected officials and key state agency leaders who oversee entities designated to receive or administer stimulus funds or grants. According to the state recovery website, "the order directs council members to work with legislative leaders and all stakeholders in the public and private sectors to identify stimulus opportunities and requirements. It also mandates rigorous monitoring, oversight and public disclosure of stimulus expenditures."

The Council convened twice in March, but as of late May had not met again.

Policy Debates

Soon after the Recovery Act was signed, Oklahoma House Speaker Chris Benge expressed concern that there would be strings attached to the federal aid that would force the state to increase its own spending. He warned fellow legislators against using the stimulus to fill holes in the state budget that would arise again in future years when the federal help would not be available.

In late February the Oklahoma Policy Institute urged the Governor to create an oversight board to ensure accountability in the spending of stimulus funds, while Oklahomans for Responsible Government advised against the move, saying that oversight was the job of the legislature. In early March Gov. Henry announced the choice of State Auditor Steve Burrage to serve as the stimulus watchdog. He later created the Coordinating Council with Burrage as one of its members. Burrage soon pointed out that no federal funds would be available for the state to audit stimulus spending and asked the legislature to fund that activity. In March the legislature passed a bill that requires state agencies receiving stimulus funding to submit a plan to legislative budget leaders.

Oklahoma City Sen. Randy Brogdon, a Republican who is said to be considering a run for governor, urged Gov. Henry to reject the stimulus funds being offered by the federal government. He said "there are too many strings attached to this plan, and we can't afford to rob our children's future in order to take care of our needs today." Brogdon later suggested instead that the stimulus money be used to give rebates to state taxpayers.

In late March Speaker Benge was still saying that there was uncertainty about how the state could spend the federal stimulus funds and pressed legislators to devise a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 without including ARRA money.

But around the same time, Gov. Henry said that work would soon start on road and bridge improvements across the state using stimulus funds. The state Transportation Department awarded nearly $270 million in contracts for the 40-plus projects. The spending included $75 million for a single project: improvements to I-244 in Tulsa.

In mid-May Gov. Henry and legislative leaders reached agreement on a budget plan that uses $631 million in stimulus funds to increase spending for education and healthcare while cutting other agencies 7 percent overall. The plan left about $600 million in stimulus funds for use in 2010.

Last updated on: 15 October, 2009

Quick Facts

Population:
3,642,361

Median Household Income:
$41,567

Unemployment Rate:
6.8%

Poverty Rate:
15.9%

Estimated Recovery Act Funding:
$2.8 billion

Watchdog Groups

Oklahoma Policy Institute

Resources

In February the Oklahoma Policy Institute published a 17-page summary of the stimulus funding that would be available for the state. Since then, the Institute has published a policy brief on unemployment insurance reform and has issued numerous blog posts on the stimulus.

 

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