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Oklahoma Among States Watchdog Group Expects to Be Financially Worse off Post Pandemic

Serge Melki

A watchdog group said Tuesday that Oklahoma is among several states that went into the pandemic in less-than-ideal fiscal shape and may come out worse.

Truth In Accounting founder and CEO Sheila Weinberg said it’s a common problem in their 2020 Financial State of the States report.

"States were just not prepared for the current crisis. We found that states in total had accumulated more than $1.4 trillion of debt, all of this while they’ve been claiming their budgets have been balanced," Weinberg said.

Truth In Accounting says Oklahoma’s liabilities are $764 million greater than its assets, a shortfall that earns a "C" grade for the third straight year but ranks the state 12th in the U.S. But that’s of greater concern given the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

Truth In Accounting Research Director Bill Bergman said using rough projections based on revenue losses during the Great Recession, Oklahoma stands to lose about $4 billion in tax revenues by the end of fiscal year 2022.

"Oklahoma, Texas, North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming — they all tend to be in better shape, and I would argue that maybe Texas is in as good shape as it should be given the tailwind from oil prices until recent years. And Oklahoma and Texas have different challenges today than they did back in 2009," Bergman said.

The group includes states’ unfunded pension benefits in their liabilities. Oklahoma’s total almost $7.1 billion.

Oklahoma is among 14 states to get a "C" in this year’s report. Three states got an "A", while 25 got a "D" or an "F".

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