Oklahoma Nearly Flunks Economic Report Care/fisher: Taxation, Spending State's Biggest Failures

Article excerpt

If Oklahoma's economy were in school, it would have almost flunked this last semester.

The Corporation for Enterprise Development, a non-profit private research group, released what it called a "state-by-state economic report" card Wednesday.

According to that "report card," which graded states in four areas, Oklahoma received:

- An "F" in economic performance, which included employment growth, income per capita, job quality and quality of life.

- A "B" in business vitality, referring to the competitiveness of existing business and ability to spawn new business.

- A "D" in economic capacity, covering human and capital resources, infrastructure and amenities to attract and retain talent.

- A "D" in policy strength, including effectiveness of government and regulation, improvement of education and research and help for distressed communities.

The two-year research effort, which cost $200,000, differed from most economic and business indexes, which emphasize competition among states for a limited number of industrial plants, said Robert Friedman, president of the Corporation for Enterprise Development. He said his organization's index emphasizes creating wealth and ``cultivating your own garden.''

Bruce Fisher, research director of Citizens for Tax Justice in Washington, D.C., and a co-author of the economic report card, said Oklahoma has several strengths, but has failed to diversify its agriculture, economic base and manufacturing.

He indicated, however, that the biggest failure in Oklahoma deals with taxation and spending.

"To really achieve economic success," he explained, "takes a willingness on the part of the citizens and particularly on the political leadership to increase taxes to fund needed programs and then to spend it wisely. …