Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

Policy Research Fellow

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In 2004, Oklahoma had 1,168 structurally deficient bridges and ranked 49th in a federal report on bridge upkeep. Fifteen years later, the state has made a monumental jump to 9th with only 86 bridges now reported structurally deficient, according to Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz. What is just as significant is that the state was able to achieve this without a massive increase in transportation spending.

In 2004, Oklahoma ranked 41st in per capita transportation spending according to data collected by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). Last year, Oklahoma ranked 42nd.

Oklahoma’s per capita transportation spending has increased from $292 to $359 over that span, unadjusted for inflation. That number has fluctuated, with a high of $487 in 2011 when Oklahoma ranked 20th, the state’s highest ranking between 2004 and 2019. The graph below shows Oklahoma’s change in per capita transportation spending along with the national average, which Oklahoma has been routinely below.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; National Association of State Budget Officers

The same story holds true when looking at transportation spending as a share of total state spending. Oklahoma was using 7.9 percent of its budget for transportation in 2004. That number has now fallen to 5.9 percent in 2019.

Source: National Association of State Budget Officers

The table below shows where Oklahoma ranked in two categories of transportation spending.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; National Association of State Budget Officers

As you can see, Oklahoma never approaches the top 10 in either category and more often than not is near the bottom 10. Yet despite what appears to be a modest focus on transportation spending, Oklahoma has achieved top 10 results in transportation infrastructure.

Low levels of government spending are often cited as the reason for Oklahoma’s poor performance in several areas such as health care and education. But as OCPA never tires of repeating, what’s important is that Oklahoma’s political leaders provide better service at a better price.

Policy Research Fellow

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