You know what they say about sequels — they generally are not as good as the original. Our suspicion is that the same could be said for the New Year, judging from Oklahoma’s economic indicators for 2016.
The year just ended was a tough one all around. 2015 began with $600 million less for the Oklahoma Legislature to appropriate than the year before. As oil prices tanked, the budget hole stayed wide and deep.
The year ended with the state’s chief financial officer declaring a general revenue failure, and state agencies expecting 3 percent less in appropriated funds for the balance of the current budget year.
Meanwhile, the state Board of Equalization certified a preliminary general revenue projection for the coming budget year that is $900 million less than the year before.
That’s roughly the equivalent of overall ticket sales so far for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Unless creator George Lucas can spare some change, or the price of oil makes a meteoric climb, the new year isn’t going to feel very new. Rather, it threatens to be a rerun of 2015 with further downsizing of an already shriveling state government.
Those who argue that is not the worst thing that could happen, should say that to the face of a public school student or teacher. Ranking at the bottom of the barrel in per-pupil spending for common education is never acceptable, no matter what the circumstances.
On the promising side, Oklahoma has ridden the energy price roller coaster before and always rebounded eventually.
Early figures show that the Oklahoma Tax Commission disbursed nearly $138.24 million to 514 municipalities for the Nov. 1-15 shopping period, up 0.18 percent, from the nearly $137.99 million disbursed in December 2014. Final holiday season figures have not been released.
Retailers again faced unfair competition from Internet sellers that continue to receive a pass on collecting sales taxes. Congress should make leveling the playing field its No. 1 resolution. Local retailers, which provide jobs, pay sales and property taxes and support their communities, deserve better.
The New Year, is new and deserves a chance. Maybe 2016 will prove the prognosticators wrong.