NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Oklahoma: Paying Bureaucracy Too Much

April 6, 2004

With an average 2001 per capita income of $27,051 (the 5th lowest in the country) and one of the country's highest tax burdens and an overly large government bureaucracy, Oklahoma has "overhead" it can no longer afford, say economists from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Citing data from a 2002 study by the U.S. Census bureau, researchers found Oklahoma had 15,481 more state employees than the national average. The salaries, retirement, social security, health and life insurance of these excess state employees cost Oklahoma taxpayers plenty:

  • These "excess" employees cost Oklahoma taxpayers from $508 million to $778 million every year.
  • Adjusted for inflation, average state government pay rose 9 percent from 1980 to 2000, while private employee compensation in Oklahoma dropped 12 percent.

The researchers suggest that the amount of money saved by paring down government employment to the national average would annually fund all of Oklahoma's desperately needed road and bridge repairs or operate a Class I trauma center. While it is clear that some functions of government remain undermanned, overall, researchers argue that the state needs to review its employment levels to a more representative level.

Source: Russell W. Jones and Nancy R. McClure, "Oklahoma Has Thousands of Excess Government Employees," Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, January 2004.


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