Oklahoma State Overview
Oklahoma is the fifth freest state in the country. It does especially well on fiscal policy (ranking fourth) but slips, like many southern states, on personal freedom (ranking 31st). The Sooner State also improved more than any other state except for North Dakota over the last decade.
In terms of fiscal policy, Oklahoma enjoys particularly low taxes and debt (7.4 percent and 14.0 percent of personal income, respectively). However, it does not equal this superior performance on spending, where it is a full standard deviation worse than average (at 13.0 percent of personal income). One of the reasons for this is that the Oklahoma state and local governments have bloated payrolls amounting to 16.5 percent of the private workforce. Oklahoma is also fairly fiscally centralized.
In the regulatory realm, the state performs quite well on land-use freedom, though eminent domain reform has been quite limited. Oklahoma is mediocre on tort abuse, health insurance freedom, occupational freedom, and utility deregulation. However, its number of health insurance coverage mandates is better (lower) than average. It has been a right-to-work state since 2001. Unfortunately, Oklahoma requires too many occupational licenses; occupational fees and education/experience requirements are, however, lower than average. Campaign finance regulations are quite strict.
In terms of personal freedom, gun control is fairly limited and alcohol taxes and restrictions are modest (although the state does have blue laws and a “happy hour” ban). The state’s marijuana sentencing is unreformed. Indeed, Oklahoma’s maximum possible sentence for a single marijuana offense—lifetime in prison—is draconian. Asset forfeiture rules are in need of reform. Several types of gambling are legal (not including casino gambling), though social gambling is technically prohibited and aggravated gambling is a felony. Private and home schools are virtually unregulated—though kindergarten attendance is required by law. The state has limited smoking bans with a number of exceptions. Arrests for victimless crimes are well above the national average, significantly dragging down the state’s personal freedom score. Reforming this rate to the national mean would have raised Oklahoma’s personal freedom ranking from 31st to 13th. Surprisingly, the drug arrest rate is better (lower) than average.
- Cut spending and the size of the government workforce until they are in line with national averages. Areas that could use the biggest cuts include public welfare and highway spending.
- Protect individual property rights better by reforming eminent domain and asset forfeiture laws.
- Reform sentencing for nonviolent crimes with an eye to reducing the crime-adjusted incarceration rate to the national average.