State budget writing practices tend to be haphazard and arbitrary in how programs are created, retained, and prioritized. The 1889 Institute seeks to make Oklahoma's budget more transparent and understandable as well as help lawmakers determine priorities.
"Ten Top Tens: State Rankings Worth Pursuing" by Michael R. Davis with Vance Fried, Benjamin Lepak, and Byron Schlomach identifies ten broad policy categories worth pursuing by a state looking for top-ten status. Specific valid metrics for which states can be meaningfully ranked are identified for each category. Also highlighted are some specific rankings which are popular and often cited by media, but which are not valid for public policy purposes. Summary
"Rising Above Mere Politics: General Principles for Spending Taxpayers' Money" by Byron Schlomach argues that state budget writers should ask five basic questions: Is a program or agency consistent with the mission of Oklahoma’s state government? Are the benefits from a program or agency unambiguous and universal? Do the benefits of a program or agency indisputably outweigh the costs? Is the program or agency fulfilling a need only government can effectively fill? Does the existing program or agency show evidence of past success? In addition, they must recognize that pursuing federal funding can often be counterproductive and that, too often, spending reflects the victory of political symbolism over the substance of actual accomplishment.
"Comparing Oklahoma Government Revenues and Spending" by Byron Schlomach and Vance H. Fried compares state and local taxes and spending in six areas as a percentage of personal income across states. It finds that if Oklahoma were 10 percent more efficient with state and local funds, doable given comparisons with other states, it could redirect or save taxpayers $2 billion.
"Oklahoma is a Medium, Not Low, Tax & Spending State" by Byron Schlomach demonstrates that when state and local taxes and spending in Oklahoma are compared to the same in other states as a percentage of GDP, Oklahoma ranks surprisingly high in tax and spending metrics.
"Oklahoma's Billion-Dollar Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust" by Byron Schlomach briefly describes the constitutionally-established fund into which 75 percent of the state's tobacco settlement payments are deposited. Investment proceeds are partly used to fund tobacco use cessation efforts. The paper explores the sources of funding, its uses, and whether it can be put to alternative uses.